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Question: Sir, how do I respond when someone asks me to describe my personality?
Speaker: This question is the gateway to the mind. Let us understand this.
Why must I ask this question? Because I am concerned with what others think of me. So, you see, you lost the battle at the outset itself. You are so bothered about what others would be thinking of you. Do not ask me that how should I respond when someone asks me to describe my personality. Instead, you should ask, ‘What is personality?’ That is sufficient.
Do you understand the difference between these two questions? The first part of the question, the way she has put it, is other-centric. ‘Sir, what should I tell him when he asks me about my personality?’ Forget about ‘him’! The more genuine question would be, ‘Sir, what is personality?’ If you know what is personality, then it is obvious that you can tell it to anybody when asked. But you see that’s the way we have lived; other-centered.
We do not really bother whether we know, even when we claim that we want to know. We want to know so that we can tell it to somebody. Look at the way you study. You don’t study because you want to know. You want to study so that you may write in examination paper, so that the examiner can read it. You study for the sake of others. You don’t ask this question because you want to understand the term ‘personality’. You ask this so that you can listen to this answer and quote it in front of somebody else. ‘Sir, how do I respond when somebody asks me that what is personality?’ Why is that ‘somebody’ so important for you? Your own understanding is far more important. If you understand, then of course you can tell it to anybody, if needed.
Why is it so important to you that what the examiner thinks of you? But that’s the only thing that is there. You don’t study out of love, you study out of fear. The examiner can fail me. That ‘somebody else’ may not approve of what I am writing. And then there is no life in that knowing.
So, first, we are inverting your question from the point of view of the self. The question now says, ‘What is personality?’ Now, what is personality? We have talked earlier that how we borrow our sense of self from outside, how we borrow our very identity of who we are from outside. The expression of all those identities is called ‘personality’. So, the personality is anyway a borrowed thing. Anybody who is interested in your personality is anyway not a wise fellow. It is like meeting somebody and becoming too interested in his clothes. This fellow is either a clothes merchant or a mad man. This fellow either runs a garment shop or is a lecher.
Personality is like your clothes, an outer covering, an outer layer that has come from the outside. Personality is not what you are, personality is what you wear. Wear, not in the sense of clothes. Wear, in the sense of putting upon yourself.
Personality is your external layer. Why must I be interested in your external layer? Why must anybody be interested in the external rather than the internal? A person who is interested in external has surely no eyes to look into internal, to look into what is essential. But that is the way we live. And that is the way we have been taught to live. We have been told that the man is judged by his appearance. We have been told that all that is, is by appearance. We have been told that ultimately what counts is success. We have been told that you must have it by hook or by crook. ‘Get it, wear it and display it.’ That’s the way we have been brought up. That’s the way we have been taught. So, personality has become very important in this blind world because this world has no eyes to look into the essential. All of you are young and you have life to live. How can you spend your life like a blind man?
You must know the essential, and the personality is not the essential. Are you getting it?
Personality is what you wear. Be more concerned with what you are. And what are we? Move a step behind. As far as we know ourselves, we are just thoughts. Be very-very mindful of your thoughts.
An obsession with personality means that I do not care about what is going on here in my mind, because it is not visible. Expressions are visible, my clothes are visible, facial colour is visible, words are visible, my way of walking is visible, but my thoughts are not visible. So, I won’t bother about them. That’s what an obsession with personality does. It makes you forget what is more important than your personality, the content of mind.
So, first thing: become more concerned with what is going on in your mind. We think that nobody knows what is going on here(pointing at the head), so we think that this mind is our kingdom. Anything goes. We think that we are thinking but nobody knows what we are thinking. ‘Let me think, let me roam around anywhere. Let me harbor any kind of thought, let me be worried, let me be lustful, let me do all that which is otherwise permissible to be done in action. If I kill someone then I will be arrested, but at least I can think of killing that person and derive pleasure out of it.’ Now, nobody can see the thoughts so its alright. Keep thinking about killing that person and that gives us a certain satisfaction.
Law surely cannot punish you for your thoughts but life and existence will surely punish you for your thoughts because all your thoughts become your mind itself. They cause a permanent change, a permanent deformation of the mind. Are you getting it?
Please have some sensitivity towards yourself and be much more bothered about what you are doing to yourself. Your thoughts punish you. Or we can say that to have thoughts is a punishment itself. You do not require any external agency to punish you. Look attentively at your beliefs. See how you have allowed yourself to borrow the idea of success from others, the meaning of career, and so on and so forth. These are the deep-seated beliefs in the mind. How come I have just borrowed and accepted the meaning of the word ‘life’? How come others have written a script for me and I have internalized that script? Be much more concerned about that.
Look at the contents of your mind, forget the personality.
‘How am I living my life? I sit just as the way others are living? Why is my life so predictable? Why am I afraid, desirous? Do I know love?’ Be much more concerned about these questions and when these are taken care of, then intelligence shines. That is the very function of intelligence. And in that intelligence, personality is automatically taken care of. An intelligent man will know by himself what is the right kind of clothing and appearance for an occasion. He will not need to be told. That is a very minor thing or secondary thing. Be concerned with what is major, what is primary.
I repeat: You are the content of your mind. Personality is just an appearance that you wear.
Be bothered with what you are, not what you wear.
Excerpted from a ‘Shabd-Yog’ session. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session video: The personality is not your essence || Acharya Prashant (2013)
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