Question: Sir, I would like to ask something from a topic which was touched yesterday but that has been revolving around in my mind even today. We were talking about self-improvement, and all the time, I try always, to see, what’s wrong in me and bring about some change.
When you said that actually self-improvement is nothing, it really shocked me, and became really difficult for me to believe because until I know the difference between ‘What I should do?’ and ‘What I am doing?’, then, how can I change?
Acharya Prashant: You see, self-improvement, the agenda for improvement, is decided by the ‘self’. The self totally disregards the greater agenda and imposes its own little agenda. And that it calls as self-improvement. Obviously in its own eyes, what it wants to do, where it wants to reach, what it wants to become, the questions that it wants to ask and get answered are very important, but only in its own eyes.
Right now, what is the wider agenda that has been set? What are we here to discuss right now?
Listeners: The Essential.
AP: We are here to discuss about the Essential and how we miss out on the Essential. That is the wider agenda. But the self, the ego, is following some other agenda, some other personal agenda. It has a total disregard, even contempt, for what? – Anything other than what it can be.
Was it not obvious to all of us what this particular session is going to be about? But you see the functioning of the personal agenda here. Are you able to see this? Totally disregardful of what even the Teacher has asked you to do. You were here when I spoke of the instructions, right? You very well know if we are here what is it that we must discuss. “But no, I personally think that something else is more important.” And that is exactly why you must not try for self-improvement. This was your effort at self-improvement. See, how disastrous this effort is.
We talked of two things:
- How my trivial priorities harm me.
- How they harm my relationships and group members.
This last ten minutes we could have spent on discussing something more consequential, something more relevant to the issue at hand. But ten minutes of twenty-five people have been taken away, ten minutes of not just the questioner, but of twenty-five people. Do you see how you harm everybody around you when your own mind is so attached to your personal priorities? That is what self-improvement is.
A drunkard wants something better for himself. This betterment, the whole movement towards betterment – that is at the core of self-improvement, is it not? Becoming better, that is at the core of self-improvement. A drunkard wants something better for himself. What would he want?
L1: More alcohol.
AP: More alcohol or maybe stronger alcohol or weed, hash. That is what self-improvement is. Whatever you may want for yourself is just your want. The best that can come to you will not come to you through your want. It will come to you when you have forgotten your wants. And this right now, this that just happened, is such a live and practical example. I think I made it clear, very loudly, very unambiguously, what we are about to do. And yet see, how you are chasing your own dreams.
L2: Sir, I saw a very petty example.
AP: Devesh, see again. Do you see the presence of the personal here? Devesh spoke, and in three seconds of his speaking, I can clearly see the presence of the personal. Could you figure that out? What is the personal that is present here?
AP: No. What is the personal that is present here? What is the wider thing that he is missing on, and how is the personal dominating?
L3: He is in a group and he is starting his sentence with an ‘I’.
AP: So, when in a group, how should you start your sentence with? ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’, ‘E’, ‘F’?
You are making exactly the same mistake that he did without even knowing. I will tell you the mistake.
Dusan, could you hear what Devesh said?
L4: No, I couldn’t actually hear.
AP: Could you even hear what Joy said?
AP: But for them, it is enough that their personal question has reached me. They are totally oblivious and it is a group setting and their question must be loud enough to reach everybody. This is what the personal does. “After all, my question is reaching where it must reach. Why must I bother about the others? Why must I bother?”
And the others are also not bothering. Why? Because it is not their personal question. When it is not ‘my question’, then why should a Kunal or a Valeria there, bother to stop Joy or Devesh, and say, “No, I am not able to hear you.” Just as Devesh is saying, “It is my personal question and I am whispering to Sir. And Sir is listening and that is sufficient”; similarly, Valeria there is saying, “Not my question. Something is happening. I am like an on-looker.”
This is what the personal does. Only damage, only damage!
L2: Yes. Sir, when you were telling, giving the instructions… Can you all hear me? (asking the audience) Yes, okay. So, when you were giving the instructions, actually I lost my pen. So, at that time suddenly Janko came and I was looking at his pen, at that moment. And I was figuring out, “Is this my pen?”
So, a very petty thing was keeping me occupied, and it was happening automatically. And when I realised this was happening, I wrote it down. So, this is such an inessential thing but was taking away the very essential thing at that time. So, the mind was engaged in it at least for a few seconds, at least thirty seconds.
AP: So, you could figure it out that how a pen becomes more important than the session to you. But there are others who will not be able to figure out how urinating becomes more important than the session. Even during this session, you will see that. Or sleeping, or looking at the other, or thinking about this and that. And we are not even aware of how we are prioritising.
Good that you could register it, even if after the event. And it is such a common thing. It would happen. If you lose your pen during the session, it would be so difficult for you, right? You would be fidgety, groping for the pen here and there, and it’s a pen. And you aren’t carrying very expensive pens. You would get a second pen if needed.
~ Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: The Best will not come to you as a result of your want
Read more articles on this topic:
Article 3: What is ‘personal’?