Past, future and introspection || Acharya Prashant (2013)

SR Generic_ English

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Question: Sir everyone says that introspect yourself, realize your true potential. I have failed to do that.

Acharya Prashant: There is no need. Actually what you are calling as introspection is usually a post-mortem. What people typically call as introspection usually means that “Once the event is done, now think about it” and that is only wastage of time. That is only wastage of time. Attention is something totally different.

Sitting over here if you are introspecting, you are wasting your time and my time. Why? because you will be introspecting about something that happened in the morning. Now, is it morning right now? But you will be introspecting. And all introspection is about an event that has gone by or is the past. Attention is something totally different. I ask for attention.

Attention says, “Whatever is happening, be in that, be alive, be present.” Give everything to ‘what is’ and forget everything else. Let all your concerns disappear, Let all miscellaneous thoughts disappear. Let all planning, all worries disappear. Nothing, no movement in the mind at all. A complete disappearance of all disturbances. Just presence, this is attention. And when you are attentive, after that introspection will appear foolish. You will say, “What should I introspect?” The event is done, the game has been played, the rock has been walked, the food has been eaten, now what is there to introspect?

And when I am introspecting about the past, I am losing out the present. Every second that I am ruminating about the past is a second that I am losing out in the present. So the general meaning of introspection is very misplaced. Very misplaced. It is just as we said, a ‘Postmortem’. The event has been done and now you are uselessly thinking about it.

Far better than introspection is attention. Attention says, “When the event is there, let the event be there and nothing else, let everything else disappear, dive into the event, give everything. And when the event is not there, then forget the event. Then there is no need to think. When you are awake, be fully awake. and when you are asleep, be fully asleep. When you are asleep, don’t keep thinking about the day. Don’t keep having bad dreams. When awake, fully awake, when asleep, fully asleep.” Right?

L2: Sir, is our future not related to the past?


Future is completely related to the past. The present is not related to the past or the future. What you call as the future, whenever you say future, What do you think of? You surely think of something that you have already experienced in the past.

Can you right now visualize yourself speaking French in the future?

L2: No sir.

AP: Why can’t you visualize yourself speaking French? Because French is not in your past. In the future, you will hope for that, which was present in the past. In the future, you want to avoid that which was scary in the past. Out of the past, you project a future, that’s why all your projections and dreams and targets of the future are totally meaningless. That is why all talk of the future is just a waste of time. because future is nothing but past replayed. People will tell you, “We want a very good future for you.” You ask “What do you want regarding my future?” They will say a few things and what will they say? They will say just those things that they did.

So, essentially when they say future, they just want to replay the past. Parents will tell you, please get married soon, that’s what we want for your future. And why do they want marriage in your future? Because marriage is in their past. Essentially they are saying, do everything that we did. Not only others, even you. If you are to dream about what you want in the future? You will only dream of something that you have experienced earlier. Your background determines your dreams of the future. That is why the wise man does not dream.

Because he knows that all dreams are such great limitations, they are traps. Dream means that I am replaying the past again and again. I come from a small town where there is no industry no corporations, there is only the network of the government and my father was a clerk, so what do I want to become? I want to become a PCS officer. This is what I want from my future.

Now, is this something new or this is something my past has given me? Had the past been different, I would have dreamt of a different future. had the past been different, I would have wanted different future. So, this future is a bondage, this future is not giving me freedom. It is still keeping me tied to the past. That’s what is the case with all our dreams, targets, ambitions, everything that has to do with the future, hope. Hope has to do with the future, right? You hope for the future.

What do you hope about the future? All that you hope is that my past, the pleasurable elements of my past be repeated. Mind looks at the past and divides the past into two halves, pleasant and unpleasant. It says to let the pleasant be repeated. This it calls as hope of future. All hope of future is repeatation of the past. Whatever was pleasant in the past, let that be repeated. Then the second half is unpleasant, and this the mind says should not be repeated. This is apprehension.

So, when you look at the future, you look at only two things, Hope, and apprehension. Hope says this must be repeated. Apprehension says this must not be repeated. But except repetition, there is nothing in the future. The strange part is that All of us claim that we want a bright, new future, right? That’s what we say. But all your dreams of future can never be new. Hence, as I said, the wise man never dreams of the future. He lives in the…

Listeners: Present.

AP: Present. He has no hope for the future at all. That does not mean that he is hopeless, he neither hopes nor does not hope. He is centered in the present. He may sometimes forecast the future, forecasting is another thing, Looking at the sky he may say, All right! it is going to rain, but that is not a hope, that is just a forecast. Are you getting it?

Listeners: Yes sir.

AP: He has no expectations because he knows that expectations are rubbish. Ultimately the present is the only place where I have control. The present is where I really am and that’s what I must take care of. Nothing else, and that is also what is attention. That is also related to calling. So all the three questions that we have taken today are actually interrelated, if you go to them deep enough you will find that all these different branches are coming from the same root.

Watch the session video: Past, future and introspection || Acharya Prashant (2013) The transcription has been edited for clarity.

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  1. “Future is completely related to the past. The present is not related to the past or the future. What you call as the future, whenever you say future, What do you think of? You surely think of something that you have already experienced in the past.”

    True words.


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