Why does the mind compare everything with the past? || Acharya Prashant (2014)

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Listener: Why does my mind compare everything with the past?

Acharya Prashant: What else can it do? Do you want to think without having a benchmark? That’s impossible.

The mind is like a ‘businessman.’ It weighs everything. And have you seen weighing scale? It always has two parts that are weighed against each other. Have you ever seen a weighing scale that does not compare? That does not have a standard or a benchmark?

The mind is like that. It has no independent existence of its own. It lives only in relation. Only in comparison. If it cannot relate something to the past it will not be able to make any sense of it.

Assume I utter word right now that you cannot relate to your past, will your mind make any sense out of that word? If you have never heard that word before. Would that word be meaningful in the language of the mind? Yes? So, that is the all mind can do. Compare.

It derives its very existence from a relationship with knowledge. The thing must already be there in the mind by way of knowledge for it to make any sense to you. So that’s all the mind can do.

If it says something is good it is because it has been made to believe in the past that such are the benchmarks of ‘goodness.’ If it says something is moral or ethical then it is because it is made to believe that such are the standards of ethics otherwise it hardly knows anything.

So if your question is why does my mind compare anything and everything with the past? Then the answer is because that’s the only thing it can do nothing else is possible for the mind.

The question now needs to be broadened. The question must now be – “Do I need to know everything by way of comparison?” Alright!  the conditioned mind will only know something by comparing it. Right? The conditioned mind will only know something by comparing it. But will I also know everything by comparing it?  Is that an obligation upon me as well? No, that’s not really an obligation upon you. That is an obligation upon the conditioned part of the cells. But not really upon you. If that is an obligation upon you then, Life will become very terrible. Because it would imply that there is no possibility of any ‘newness.’ Only that will come to me that has a relation to the past. So, nothing new then can come to me. That is a terrible thing to happen.


Life is not that tragic. The new is there, every moment is new. We are leaving continuously in the new but the faculty that will know the new is not the conditioned.

Mind understand this clearly. Right now as you are listening to me this is a new movement. Thought will not know this movement. Thought can only recognize. You understand recognition? Recognition means “re-cognition”. Going again to that which is already stuffed there. Going again to that.

If you are thinking you will never know what I’m saying because thought can only know by way of comparison with the existing knowledge. You have another faculty that knows. That is attention. That is when the usual processes of the mind get calmed down. You are not thinking, you are not comparing. If you are comparing me to something that you have heard earlier, you will never get me. If you are comparing me to my own words that you might have read in the past, then again you will miss the point.

The only way to come close to the happening is by way of direct approach.

Comparison is indirect approach and you have the capability to approach rife directly.

You have the capability to listen directly to me without letting your notions and prejudices interfere. Only then does knowing take place. So, do not ask – “ why does the mind compare?” The mind has only the power to compare. So, it will compare, and comparison is all right there are so many things in Life where comparison is necessary small superficial things you need to compare. It’s alright! you are buying vegetables you need to compare whether it is too trim harm or not. The weighing scale needs to be there. It’s alright! these are small matters but in essential matters, there can be no comparison. You cannot Love by way of comparison, you cannot choose your vocation by way of comparison, you cannot say that because he is having this kind of job or work so I too shall have this. No, then it is a very poor decision you are making.

You cannot say that because everybody works in this way, Loves in this way, Marries in this way so I too will go ahead and follow the same or not follow it. You know when you compare are two things that can happen – One I’ll go along with what everybody else is doing. Second I will go against. In both cases, you’ll miss the point.

The essential must never be born out of comparison it has to be seen directly and you see something directly when you come close to it without letting notions become a dividing wall you cannot come close to the happening right now if your notions, beliefs, biases are standing in between. You have to be courageous enough to keep them aside for a while and approach the thing directly and then it’s easy, very easy. Getting it?

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Why does the mind compare everything with the past? The transcription has been edited for clarity.

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