Speaker: Now as I am responding to this, did I plan to respond? This is attention – to be completely alert and wakeful. And out of that alertness comes a spontaneous response. This is attention. This spontaneity is attention, and spontaneity is of great benefit. What is that great benefit? You need not think.
So as I am speaking to you, I do not need to think. And when you do not need to think, (pointing at the head) ‘this’ remains very light. No problems, no headaches, no conflicts, there is only a beautiful flow; beautiful, energetic flow, like that of a mountain river. It does not pause to think which way to go. There is only flow. That is what attention is. Spontaneity! Spontaneity in awareness.
Not just spontaneity, because spontaneity can be a reaction also. Somebody slaps you hard, you also slap him back. This is not alertness, this is mere spontaneity born out of evolutionary, biological conditioning. Getting it?
I am talking of ‘aware’ spontaneity. For this, there is no specific time. You are sitting here, in that there has to be an awareness. You are listening, eating, walking, in that there has to be an awareness. Every place is a place of attention, and that is called ‘an intelligent life’.
It is not something like that, “When I come across a big moment in life, when I have to take a big decision in life, then only I will think in attention.” No, it is not like that. All the moments are in attention.
Listener 1: Sir, you told us to be attentive towards ourselves. Sir, don’t you think that this will make me selfish?
Speaker: The word ‘selfish’ has ‘self’ as its root. Can you be selfish without understanding the self? When you say, ‘selfish’, do you understand what is ‘self’? Then how do you know what is meant by ‘selfish’? You say, ‘selfish’ or you say, ‘selfless’, in order to use any of these words you must first understand the word ‘self’. Are you getting it?
When I say, ‘overweight’ or when I say, ‘underweight’, what do I first need to know? What is weight? If I do not understand weight, can I make anybody understand overweight or underweight? If I do not understand ‘self’, can I talk about ‘selfishness’ or ‘selflessness’? What is the self? Your mind. Do you understand that?
Without understanding ‘self’, why are you using the terms ‘selfish’ and ‘selfless’? Only because you are habituated to it. Since childhood someone taught you that a particular kind of behaviour is called ‘selfishness’. You have never really understood selfishness. You have only established a link that when someone behaves in a particular way, it is to be labelled as ‘selfish’. You do not understand ‘selfishness’ because you do not understand the ‘self’. And that is what is being intelligent – understanding, not just following, not just picking up.
You want to do a small experiment? Pick up the words that you use in everyday life. Simple words: Education, Love, Living, Hate, Simplicity, Complexity, Conflict, Stress, Responsibility, Freedom. Do you really understand these words? Do you understand what ‘freedom’ is, what is ‘responsibility’? You use these words day-in and day-out, without even knowing what they mean. What is this life that you are living?
You mentioned the word, ‘hope’. Do you understand what ‘hope’ is? Without even understanding the word you would say, “I hope to become a management trainee one day’” Wait! Do not go so far. You have taken the story too far. ‘Dreams’ is such a sacred term for you, ‘my dreams’. Do you understand what dreams are? Do you really understand what dreams are? Obedience, do you understand that? Religion, patriotism, do you understand that? Money. What is Money? Sex. What is that? Have you understood it? But then it is so important in your life, so important in your life. Life. Have you ever tried to pay attention to it? What is life? Breathing, eating, walking, sleeping. That is life. What is ‘Life’?
Listener 2: Sir, being an ideal for someone.
Speaker: Alright. What is stupidity? You were born with all the capacities and potentialities and with all the intelligence. But what have we made of ourselves? Anybody comes and throws some garbage in your mind like a public dustbin, and you call it ‘my’ mind. That is what I claim to be myself and I am very possessive about it, you see. “Don’t you dare point fingers at my beliefs, my conceptions! I listen to songs. I read inspirational stuff from here and there. At times my seniors tell me something, at times my parents tell me something, society has taught me some stuff, media, T.V., books and I have come to believe that this is it.”
(Satirically) “Kisee ka dard mil sake to le udhaar (borrow sorrow from others)”, “become an ideal for someone”. Again planning for future.
Are you here right now? “I am not present here right now but I am very excited to meet you next time.” Believe me that over the last thirty-forty minutes I have not thought even once of meeting you again. Not because I am indifferent to you but because I am fully immersed in this moment. But are you alert of your own mind, and watch what it is doing? Just to escape from this moment, it is trying to create an opportunity for some unknowable, unforeseen future. What else is there to observe? My own words, my own thoughts, my being. Know this, you will know everything. And if you do not know this, it is as good as sleepwalking.
How old are you? Twenty-two? You have spent one-third of your life with life-expectancy of seventy years. Keep sleepwalking. That is why in East, time is circular, too much time to waste. Keep wasting. Do you think that you are doing this course for the first time? Must have done at-least ten times earlier, in so many births, in the same manner; by being absent. That is why you have to do it number of times. It is like repeating a course again, after failing in it. You are only repeating it. What else?
Whatever you do not understand, you are bound to repeat. Do you know that history repeats itself? Do you understand why it repeats itself? Because you do not understand it. Once understood, the repetition stops. Had you understood the life-story of your own life over the last so many years, the repetition would have stopped. But you are not trying to look at it. You are not trying to look at it, so you are bound to repeat it again and again, and then you will ask that why is my life so boring.
“Why I do not want to get up every morning? Why do I need to be pushed for everything? Why do I laugh so little and even when I laugh, I look like crying?” Ask yourself, “Why it is so?” You entered in this room because somebody else pushed you in, you will exit from this room because somebody else will push you out.
Look at yourself here and now. Can a rotten tree give fresh fruits? Your future will come from what you are right now. Am I right? But you are so intent at looking at other things in future that you are not at all aware of what is all happening right now.
Yes? No? Neither ‘Yes’ nor ‘No’.
“We will believe what you say. Who are we to express ‘yes’ or ‘no’ ? You have come here to deliver a guest lecture. Your introduction was given. We are just puppets dancing on the tunes of others. Will we design the syllabus? We will study whatever we are asked to. Will we decide what we want to study? See, we have left us in the hands of God. All that we know is following others.”
“Whosoever takes me along, I only follow. I have done only this all through my life. I follow parents, I follow circumstances. You are a Guru, we will follow you now.”
“Why are you asking me what we want? Ask anything except ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What do I want?’ I am the most unimportant thing. Everything else is important.”
Excerpted from a ‘Shabd-Yog’ session. Edited for clarity.
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Acharya Prashant is an emerging champion of socio-spiritual awakening in the world today. An alumnus of IIT-Delhi and IIM-Ahmedabad, and a former Civil Services officer, Acharya Prashant is an acclaimed Speaker, Vedanta Teacher and author of over 50 books. Apart from that he wears various hats: a veganism promoter, an environmental activist, a science activist, a campaigner against superstition, and a champion of essential human freedom. Know More