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Question: Well how to be in a crowd but not get lost in maintaining yourself in a crowd?
Acharya Prashant: There is very little that you can do, when you are already in the middle of a crowd. Stimuli are raining upon you from all sides, responses are demanded. Every sound, every touch, every situation is a challenge asking for an adequate answer. So at that moment, you just have to be immersed in the happening.
It is just so that the whole life must be soon that you have a deep affinity for peace. And when you have a deep affinity for peace, for silence, and even when you’re in a crowd the taste of silence keeps calling you. Which means that if the noise becomes too much then you know that it is time for you to move. But how do you know that the noise has become too much, what is it within you that determines that it is now beyond an inner permissible limit, it is your affinity to peace.
Unless you are someone who loves peace and has been living in peace, you’d be very easily activitised to the crowd, you would be very easily co-opted by the crowd, taken by the crowd. You must have a certain point within which is not crowded, which is not a thing of the crowd and that point within is something that you have to remember and nourish, and what I’m saying is a little paradoxical here because neither can it be remembered really nor is it something that requires nourishment really.
Yet you have to nourish that part of yours which moves towards silence, yet you have to remember that it is important to move towards silence. So live a life of peace and silence. When you have been living a life of peace and silence you would also know what to do in a crowd.
There is no method or formula that is applicable directly to specific situations. Right response is not a matter of tricks, formulae, methods or mantras. Right response comes from right life. So when 24 hours you are living rightly, then you also know how to respond rightly to specific life situations. They are not in isolation.
Often, we make this mistake of compartmentalizing life. We ask, “what to do when life poses challenges, when life gives us pain?” But you will never be able to respond rightly to pain if firstly you have not been responding rightly to pleasure. So don’t divide, don’t compartmentalize. Living rightly is one integrated whole, one single unit. If you can sit rightly on this terrace right now, then you would also know how to walk down the street, then you would also know how to sit watching a movie in a theatre, then you would also know how to sit in a stadium, you can also know how to sleep, how to live and how to die.
The desire to compartmentalize is the desire to protect. We say we don’t want to touch certain sections of our life because we are attached to them, because we are identified. Because that’s where our identities find nourishment, so we don’t want to touch those parts. They give us pleasure but then there are certain parts which are a cause of pain and we want to eradicate them.
All ends of duality go together. Live rightly at the grocery shop and you would also live rightly with your kids. Live rightly in the kitchen and you would also live rightly in the bedroom. Live rightly with animals and you would live rightly with human beings.
Listener2: Sir, what you say, how do you define to live rightly in a few words?
AP: Living rightly is not a matter of set principles or images. It is easier and more useful to ask what is living wrongly. Just be alert and sensitive to living wrongly and that is sufficient. What is it that you do not like? Fundamentally what is it that you dislike? What is it that any human being dislikes? Does anybody like being disturbed? Does anybody like being hated? Does anybody like being afraid?
So living rightly is to not to promote, encourage, energize a life which involves fear, hatred, insecurity, division, violence, bondage, lovelessness, complexity, and that is so obvious to sense, because whenever that happens, whenever there is fear in life, complexity, insecurity, you get a headache, don’t you? Forget the mind, even the body feels heavy.
So you don’t even have to try to identify whether it is wrong or not. The body, the mind, your entire personality cries hoarse. You know that it is not right and when you know that it is not right, don’t support it.
If it involves fear, it cannot be right for you. If it involves greed and ambition, it cannot be right for you. If it involves losing your freedom, it cannot be right for you. So when you tick all of these off, what you are left with is the right life. Strike out whatever is wrong, be intolerant towards whatever is obviously wrong and the right is available at all times. Just don’t patronize that which is unworthy of being patronized. Don’t stand by it, don’t take its side.
Does it require a great trick to figure out that you are afraid? Does it require a special skill to see that you are acting from insecurity? Does it require great insight to see that you are being calculative? When you see that happening, don’t let that happen. That’s all.
L3: Sir, practically I understood what you said, practically if I feel some ego problem because the more I spend some time to observe myself on my faults, and the more I see when some people are a bit, I got some kind of jealousy, I feel things like jealousy, envy, anger, even if I don’t want to, it does not come under my control..
L3: So you say, do not accept it?
AP: No, I am not saying that, I am saying not to energize it. You energize it by rejecting it, a bit strange but it must be understood. When you do not resist it, then it comes and passes away but when you resist it then the energy you lose to resist it becomes the energy of the anger. When you’re angry and parallely you are also resisting the anger, then the anger gains in energy. Apparently it will be suppressed but it will find expression in many other ways.
It will appear as if you have been able to put a lid to the anger, as if you have been able to bottle it. But you know of that Genie. You put it in a bottle and sooner than later it emerges from the bottle and it is this large. So when anger comes, you let anger come and you do nothing with anger.
Whatever you do with anger would only give fuel to anger. You don’t condemn anger, you don’t support anger, you don’t accept it but you also don’t resist it. You’re all right with anger, you’re alright with it.
Whenever as an angry being you want to do something about anger remember that you are furthering the actions of the angry one.
You are angry and now you want to do something. Now all your actions at this moment are coming from anger. Whatever you will do will carry the imprint of anger on it. Even if you talk softly, it would be soft anger. Even if you talk peace, it would be an angry peace. So at that moment just be, just be. There is no need to commit yourself to any action because any action from that point, I repeat, will be a furtherance of that state.
You’re angry, alright yes, there is anger, there is anger and anger gets burned down, it gets exhausted in its own little energy. All that you have to do is to let it be exhausted by itself. You don’t need to participate, you don’t need to do anything about it. I repeat, if you say that anger is bad then you are again acting from the point of anger. You don’t say it is good, you don’t even say that it is bad, and this, remember is applicable not only to anger but even to delight and pleasure.
It is only a point of silence which is a worthy point of emergence of action. Any other mental state if you act from it, would get continued and extended just by the virtue of the action. When you’re silent then act vigorously and when there is vigorous movement in the mind, then stay silent.
L4: But on this one, sometimes particularly with anger, trying to think, sometimes it’s hard to distinguish what is letting go and what is suppressing, you know what I mean? Where is the line that?
AP: Neither do you suppress nor do you let go. Anyway anger is doing what it wants to do. You don’t have to do anything more. When anger comes, it is coming with all its waves, disturbances, this and that. It is already creating a whole cyclone in the mind. With so much of movement, why do you need to add to the movement?
L4: There is the thing, because sometimes I don’t really know, am I suppressing it by thinking I’m not acting, you know what I mean? It is not always easy to distinguish between the ‘not acting’ and when I am suppressing. It is not always easy to see.
AP: Whatever you can think of, here is a certain hint, whatever you can think of is always an action. A non-action is also a non-thought. If you can think about something, you may think about not acting, but if you can think about not acting, then even this not acting is an action. Whatever you can think of is always an action.
So, if you are able to think of suppression, suppression is an action. If you are able to think of letting go, letting go too is an action, and whatever will come out of your thought in the moment of anger, remember, will be coming out of an angry thought and hence cannot be right. So whether you call it suppression or whether you call it dropping or renunciation or letting go or calming down, all of it will just be a manifestation of the angry one.
The angry one can act respectable and cover his actions in beautiful names. He may shout and say, ‘no no this is just catharsis. You’re angry and you slap somebody and when he says, ‘What are you doing?’ You say, “No, this is just catharsis, an internal cleansing of the neurosis, this is a kind of meditation’. You can drop a hammer upon somebody’s head and when he asks ‘What are you doing?” you may say ‘I am just letting go of the hammer’, that it is nothing but a spiritual activity. Whatever name you give it, it will just be anger and violence in fancy names, violence in acceptable and respectable names.
So, be cautious of anything that you feel like doing in any mental state. The only mental state which is worthy of giving rise to full action is not a state all. It is an emptiness, it is a silence. When you are in that state, then there is the complete freedom to engage in whatever you like to. Otherwise desist, hold your energy. Don’t support yourself so much.
When you are light, peaceful, joyous, then enter into whatever you want to. Initiate a new action, carry on an old action, meet somebody, do not meet somebody, walk, climb, write, design, play, swim, eat whatever you want to do. All your desires are then beautiful desires. But when there is agitation in the mind, then do not give more energy to agitation. Hold yourself. Do not actively get into anything in that state.
The funny part is, in that state you will feel the most like getting into something. You will have a great desire to jump into something or the other and in silence there will be no such great desire, yes, there will be playfulness which is a gentle urge and not an overwhelming desire. It is only in anger and other kinds of mental excitations, that you have overpowering desires.
L4: Then there is feverishness, vindication too, just to let go.
AP: Yes, but in that feverish state you will find that you have a great inner urge to do something.
L3: Okay, if you are acting in anger, what happens then?
AP: Nothing, the anger continues. The anger gains validation, nothing else.
L4: And you will become easily angry again.
AP: Anger gets your support, it gets your gratification, it gets the identification and ultimately you become attached to anger. Ultimately you start defining yourself as the angry one.
L4: I know such people.
AP: It becomes their personality: Who am I? The one who is always angry. In fact the build an entire lifestyle around anger. Their photographs will be angry, even their kids will be angry, they’ll find a way to make anger their blood stream, which is all very destructive.
L4: Are you doing some karma because of that, is it karma?
AP: Whenever you will act in furtherance of incompleteness, the incompleteness will be furthered into time, into future.
L4: Whenever you react, in fact I think then you’re doing karma.
AP: Which means that the incompleteness of today will remain incomplete even in future and hence keep demanding completion, and that is the law of karma. You’re carrying forward the past, you were angry today and you didn’t let the anger get exhausted so it is still burning. It is still burning and ten years later it is still demanding that somebody extinguishes it. So the past is being carried forward, asking for completion.
Whatsoever is not complete in the past will keep sticking to you. The residues have to be burned down. In fact it is the residues of the past that become our mind stuff. Whatever is complete get dissolved, disappears. Whatsoever is incomplete remains, persists, nags, troubles and asks for completion.
L2: When I feel anger, I just like to observe it in silence.
AP: When you feel anger, allow yourself to be angry. Hold no position with respect to anger. Have no opinion about anger, honestly and bluntly just say I am angry. Completely act as the angry one. I am angry and when you allow yourself to really act honestly as the angry one you find that there is not much action possible. It is only when anger masquerades as morality, as duty, as responsibility, as righteousness, that anger gets the energy for action. When you say I am the angry one and I want to manifest my anger, then you find that the anger is exhausted.
Remember anger feeds on your resistance. Anger is so helpless that it can’t even walk on its own legs. It requires the legs of something else. If you are shouting at someone you can’t even tell him directly that you are shouting because you’re angry. You would say, “I am shouting because I’m hurt. You would say- I am shouting because you did something wrong.” You would say, “I am shouting because it is my responsibility to guide you.” You never simply say that I’m shouting because i am angry. Such is the lameness of anger. It can’t even call itself by its true name. It always takes on the name of something else. Getting it?
So the moment you say I’m acting because I’m angry with nothing against anger, neither support nor condemnation, then you are allowing anger to run its course and evaporate. But if you hide, deceive, give it a more beautiful sacred name, then you are extending the life of anger, then you are extending the unfulfilled state. Most people don’t even admit that they’re angry. First thing when anger comes, admit that you are very angry. Admit that there is anger that you can see and there is anger that is hidden. Admit it, acknowledge it, bring it in front of your eyes honestly.
Don’t be afraid that by acknowledging it you would be accepting yourself to be a sinner or something. No, it is there, now, how can you not acknowledge it is there, so acknowledge it. Like a wave it comes and like a wave it will pass away.
L2: So from where does this anger appear?
Anger comes from frustrated desires. You have a mental model of the world. You have your expectations and you want the world to act as per your expectations. You have a set of beliefs and you want existence to abide by them. It doesn’t turn out that way. Existence has its own plans that don’t necessarily correspond with yours, and when there is a mismatch, then you’re angry.
L2: So you must be free-falling?
L4: Today a small situation with anger, when I was in a cafe, I was trying to login to see my bank account and it didn’t work because of the changes in site and it was hard to find the login. Sometimes these small things can bring more anger out in need and big things like when somebody obviously. And you know anger came and then I did, like this, I mean I cannot scream in the internet cafe right, it hurt. I was feeling relief. So what do you think about like let’s say let’s call it spontaneous breathing techniques, techniques dealing with anger, what do you think?
AP: Even those techniques will be applied for you firstly if you acknowledge that you are angry if you have an attitude towards anger, if you consider anger as sin then even applying those techniques will become difficult.
L4: Yes, I had this issue for some time like, “Oh I’m meditating, I know I should be wise.”
AP: Now you have been meditating since years. First of all it is a kind of internal shame to accept that you’re still angry. Now if you cannot accept that you’re angry how will you apply any method?
L4: I had to, I needed time to realize. My intellect knew this but you know my emotions were- ‘Oh you have to be a meditator’. I read one.
AP: Yes, so acknowledge that you’re angry and then a lot of methods are applicable, a lot of methods. You can look here and there, gaze at the stars, breathe out, breathe in, play with a puppy, play with your palm, log on to a different site, play a video game, get some fruit juice for yourself, anything.
L2: Aggression is about the fears. It’s about the fears we have inside and how to act in that situation and solve our fears?
AP: Then again, the same thing as fear, as anger rather. When fear is there, any decision that you make at that moment will be a decision in fear. So what will be the quality of that decision? It will involve fear and it will further fear, it will have fear written all over it. That fear can take different names, I do not deny that. We require to give decorated names just to hide fear. But essentially all those names will just be fear. So it is important to not to get engaged with fear.
Let fear come, run its course and dissolve away. Even if you say that you’re observing fear, there is a catch there because observation requires a hands-off approach in the name of observation you never know how you would suddenly become a participant. It’s like you go out to a shopping mall saying that you’re just there to observe the people, the shops, the wares, the merchandise, all the decorated windows and what do you find yourself doing very soon?
L4: Planning what to buy.
AP: Planning what to buy and actually buying. So observation is a very tricky thing. You set out to observe and very soon you become a participant. So don’t be too insistent even upon observing. What do you want to observe? It is there, it is obvious. Now does it need any special observation? It is there, it is there now let it be there and have faith that if you do not add your energy to it then it does not have much energy of its own. Yes it creates a lot of noise, but it’s like, that’s like the thunder of clouds. Don’t we say that clouds that roar the most are the least likely to rain? Same case with fear, anger and the rest of them.
Watch their energy, watch their movement and for a while their energy and their movement is so intensive that it does appear as if a lot is about to happen, but it’s precisely because they exhibit a lot of energy that their energy gets burnt out to soon. Anger displays so much energy that very soon it loses all its energy, provided you are not providing energy from behind, you do not conspire against yourself. Anger is like fire, it requires fuel and the more fiercely it burns, the more quickly it exhausts. So let it burn fiercely.
More important is to ask the question – ‘How to live a life in which there is not much need for anger?’ People mostly ask, “what to do once you are angry, what to do once you are angry?” Why don’t you ask why must one be angry? What kind of life would it be in which anger really finds very little space? Why not live that kind of life? Why ask a small question? Why ask a divided question?
L2 : Okay, what kind questions need to be asked?
AP: What kind of life would it be in which anger finds little space? You tell me. If you can ask a question that comes from me then I can repeat an answer that comes from you. We just discussed from where anger arises right? From where does it come?
L4: From unfulfilled desires.
AP: So what kind of life would it be in which anger really finds little space?
L4: Or if all the desires are fulfilled which is impossible and insane.
AP: So either all desires are fulfilled…
L4: Or they are not important because you are already fulfilled from inside.
L2: Have no plans, be flexible.
AP: And that is far more important than countering anger; that is far more important.
L2: Okay so if we take not anger but fears?
AP: I am again asking, do they exist independent of each other?
AP: Are they?
L2: Maybe I am wrong.
AP: Can you be angry without being afraid? Are they not two names, two expressions of the same unfulfillment?
When you feel that something has been taken away, you are angry and when you feel something will be taken away, you are afraid.
L2: I am talking about fears like, you know of wild animals.
AP: So the wild animal will take away your life. Somebody comes and hits you and gives you a cut here, you’re angry. Some physical damage has already been done and that is anger and the wild animal may cause such damage in future and that is fear. The wild animal may cause a similar cut in the future and that is fear. Both involve anticipation or confirmation of loss, both take loss as real, both are validations of unfulfillment, are they not?
L4: But I would say this kind of fear you’re talking about its useful I mean nature gave us this kind of fear for our protection. This animal in the jungle could kill me, so don’t go in the jungle too far, isn’t it? I mean we’re talking about psychological fear about things you don’t really have to be afraid but yeah.
AP: Mostly when you are afraid of wild animals the fear is for nothing. How many times have you found a dog really attacking you and how many times have you been afraid of dogs? How many times have you been afraid of cows coming towards you and how many times have cows really attacked you? And how many times have you experienced fear? So mostly even this fear is just psychological and has no real basis to it.
I am repeating this – when you get the knack, the taste, the hang of living in fulfillment, the more you encourage and promote that life. The more you live in surrender, the more you become allergic towards unfulfillment. The more you become intolerant towards mental agitation, you immediately recoil. You find yourself stuck in a place that agitates, excites, and disturbs. You won’t be there for long, you won’t punish yourself, push yourself, persuade yourself to continue to be there. You will not call it a responsibility or obligation to please anybody by continuing to show up in such situations or at such places.
You will then know that your primary obligation is your own peace, but for that you first have to fall in love with peace. You will have to give yourself the opportunity to live in peace. If peace remains a stranger to you, even if an intimate stranger then you’ll have not much problem living in disturbance and which is a big problem. If you do not find disturbance, problem anymore and if you have become so habituated, so adjusted, then you are in trouble. Have you not seen people who become so habituated to noise, who become so acclimatized to violence that it does not mean anything to them?
They might be living in a din, and corpses might be falling all around them and for them it is life as usual. Don’t become one of them. Have a great sensitivity. Reject falseness, reject agitation and pay the price. Sometimes you have to pay a price for rejecting all that. Pay the price whatever be the price. If your workplace is full of chaos, you don’t have an obligation to be there. If your social circle is full of disturbed people, you don’t really have to become disturbed by living in midst of them.
Only if you secure your peace, that you can bring peace to others, but all of that firstly requires that you get in love with peace, a hang of peace which means that you should lie down and watch the stars, or play with animals, do all kinds of unreasonable things, waste your time by the river, allow yourself to be called a useless wanderer, a loafer and all that will bring you in such touch with peace that now you’ll say, “Oh no, disturbance? Who wants to take it? I’m too much in love with peace to accept any disturbance now. I’m too much in love with peace to go back to noise now. It is irreversible.” Come to that point where it becomes irreversible, where there are no U-turns possible anymore. Close all the exit doors.
L4: I found you said something very interesting, when you said sometimes you have to pay a price, I was feeling that about two years ago, I noticed some, let’s call it part of my personality that resists the change you know. The part of the personality that wants to be unhappy, that wants to be agitated, now I want to be angry at this and that, and then I had to consciously let go and it took time. Sometimes I had to go through some suffering, if you can call it that but this part of me are now much more and not so powerful anymore. I would call it a sacrifice.
AP: See there is pleasure in anger and that is why we sustaining anger but when you recognize that there is a much deeper pleasure of an entirely different dimension in peace, then you prefer that pleasure over the pleasure of anger. One gets into anger not for the sake of anger. Even in anger we are searching for joy.
L4: Yes, like excitement.
AP: Yes excitement. So instead of searching for joy through anger, why don’t you go directly to joy? And when you go directly to joy then you do not require anger as an intermediary. Then you say, “Oh! This middleman exacts too much of a price and also does not bring me the real thing. He promises joy but brings only agitation. So, I would rather now go directly to joy, to peace.”
L4: Some Buddhist schools of thoughts are saying that the desire to be happy and fulfilled should be dropped at the end to come to the real thing. What do you think about it?
AP: See as we are talking right now, I really do not have a desire to be fulfilled and this in itself is quite fulfilling. As I’m speaking, I’m speaking out of fulfillment so there is no question of desiring anymore fulfillment. You have all the right to be as fulfilled as your deepest desire of fulfillment. You in fact have a right to be fulfilled beyond your deepest desire of fulfillment and when you are that fulfilled, who wants fulfillment anymore?
To want fulfillment is to be unfulfilled. Fulfillment is an infinite cup from which you can drink as much as you want to and then one sip more.
Now who wants to crave.
Still we keep craving.
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Being non-resistant to anger
Watch the session video: Seeing all change, I stay as I am || Acharya Prashant, on Ashtavakra Gita (2019)
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