You are free, now why do you act helpless

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Question: Consciously, let’s say, I come to Dharamkot.  Five days ago, let’s say, I decide to come to Manali, in Manali, I would have had a different life style. And I come to this Dharamkot because I travelled by different things. That’s why based on this limited information I have, I made this decision. In reality, all my decisions might be wrong. I probably was wrong for these five days.

Acharya Prashant: You see, if you decide as the restless one, do you know where the restlessness is? The restlessness is in your mind. Right? You do not hold it in your hands, restlessness is in your mind. It is the very foundation of all your decisions, thoughts, experiences, perceptions; it is quite deep. It is that assumption from which all other experiences and observations emerge.

You go to Manali, what do you carry along with you?  The restlessness.

You come to Dharmkot, what do you carry along with you? The restlessness.

Wherever you go, you may go to the most serene place in the world, and yet what is it that you will be carrying along with you? Restlessness. It may be serene outside, within, you will continue to be restless.

Now, of course, as the things change outside, superficially something will change within you as well. But will that be able to change your deepest underlying assumptions? No, never, because it is from this assumption that you are calling the place serene. The one who is looking at and saying, “Oh! This is a peaceful place,” is himself restless. So, even if he perceives something peaceful, he is perceiving that as a restless one.

L1: The problem is I wasn’t looking for peace. I don’t think that peace is the highest ladder I was looking for, and I was just looking to smoke. If I go Manali and I can smoke weed, I feel happy for those five days, I am done. Why there is a need for philosophy? I am done. I like those five days better than these five days in Dharmakot.

AP: Do you see that when you are looking for something, you are always looking for something as a dissatisfied entity?

There is a great difference between “just looking” and “looking for.”

When you’re looking for something, then you are looking with hungry eyes. Whereas, when you are just looking, then you are looking as a witness – “I am alright.”

Now, it is out of a certain pain that one looks for pleasure. That pleasure can come out of smoking weed, or indulging in other pleasurable activities as per one’s own definition. But whenever you are chasing pleasure, it is out of an experience of pain. You identify with the one who is experiencing pain. Your self-concept is, “I am the pained one. I am the one who is suffering. Now, that I am suffering, I need relief from this suffering.” And when you need relief from the suffering, you go somewhere else. But even at that place, what do you fundamentally remain? The one who needed relief from suffering, so he has come here.

What do you find in hospitals? Healthy people?

But people go to the hospitals to get healthy.

But what do you find there? Healthy people? No.

The very fact that you have come to some place, means that you have come there as the sick one. The example stops here. The similarity stops here. In a hospital, since the sickness is superficial, so it can be treated with an external medicine. But here, the sickness is very deep, it is existential, so it cannot be treated just by a change of place.

There is a beautiful saying. Somebody asked a Zen Master, “Will I get Zen on that mountain?” He said, “Of course. But you will get only as much Zen as you carry there.”

It is not there on that mountain. It is not there in any place. It is only as much there as you are carrying with you.

We fall into this trap very easily We look for an external change and in looking for external change, we continue to further that which actually needs to be changed. The assumption needs to be dropped, we continue to preserve it.

We just keep changing things superficially, externally. We change our location, we change our job, we change our wife, we change our thoughts, ideals but we do not change that which is fundamentally dissatisfied within us. We do not drop that assumption. Instead, we keep changing this and that.

“So, let me have a change of hairstyle.”

People do that.

AP: You see, if you are tied to one particular way of living, then everything else that goes along with that way of living will necessarily come along. If you are a taxi driver who operates a certain lifestyle during the day, then it will be incumbent upon you to complete the story and follow a related lifestyle even in the night because the day and night are inseparable — they are a part of who you are, they are a representation of who you are.

If I work in a terrible job five days a week, then two days at a weekend, I will require to escape away to let’s say, a place like Dharamshala. So, coming to Dharamshala then is a part and parcel of being in that horrible job.

L1: Got it. That’s right.

AP: Do you see this?

So, if one says that coming to Dharamshala gives me peace, it is totally required, but you will again go back to that horrible job.  So, do you see that by coming here, you prepare yourself to enter more into that horror? The cycle continues and you keep sinking deeper and deeper into it. So, if you have to break it. You have to break it totally. You have to start off by seeing, that do I really need to escape or do I firstly need to inquire, “Why I need to be in that job?”

These are two different kinds of mind:

One mind says, “The job is indispensable, I must be in that job.” So, after five days, on a Friday evening, I decide now what to do so that I can get rid of the burden that these five days have given me. This mind says, “These five days must be there. I am very afraid; I cannot leave my job so these five days must be there. I cannot get rid of the job. I know it is a horrible job, yet I will continue to be in it. I am a slave.  Now, that I am a slave, I want to find out what can I do on Saturday and Sunday.” So, It says, “Go to Dharamshala; Go to Manali.”

And there is another mind, which says,

“I will not run away.” Friday evening it says, “I will not run away. I have been observing throughout the week; I have been observant these five days and I have found that this is hell. And so I am quitting. I am not going away to Manali.”

L1: It’s okay. But after quitting what will he do?

AP: He is not afraid. He says that “I am prepared to starve but I am not prepared to live in hell.” And he has Faith, he says, “I was not born to suffer. Once I am out of here, then this negative atmosphere — this atmosphere full of tension and worries and suppression too will go away. Then I will be able to decide more freely and more opportunities will open up. How will they open up? Where will they open up? That I do not know. But they will certainly open up.”

This is called Faith.

L1: But it’s possible that he becomes homeless.

AP: Yes, he is homeless but at least he is not burning in his heart. He is not having some shelter over his head, but at least in his heart, he is contented.

You see, it is a matter of being that kind of a mind. It requires Grace to have this illogical bent, this irrational peace, this totally unreasonable confidence — that come what may, I am not going to tolerate falseness. Come what may, I am not going to tolerate rubbish.

Does that mean that I have a guaranty that something better will happen?

I have no guaranty.

Does that mean I have an alternate job offer in hand?

I have no job offer. All I know is that I will not take rubbish.

This is one particular kind of mind. It is, unfortunately, a little rare.

L1: A lot of people choose something not because they love it but because they have to. Otherwise, there are a lot of jobs that people don’t take it because they love it.

AP: But you should also remember that –

No one is helpless out of circumstances; everyone is helpless out of choice.

People say, “Oh! I have to do it, I have no option.”

No, it is not true. It is totally false; it is in fact, deceptive.

L1: He has an option but to get that knowledge, he has to study.

AP: No, it is not a question of studying in the future. It is just that there are certain conveniences and comforts that you have become accustomed to. They may be physical conveniences and comforts or they may be mental security — you do not want to leave them.

You see, there are these beggars at the crossings in big cities. I am talking about Indian cities and they are mostly not natives of those cities. They have come from some other place — some distant village, some small town somewhere. And here they stand all day at the crossing, taking all the sun, all the pollution, all the heat, all the rubbish and all the humiliation, yes? I look at them and I wonder, why don’t they go back to where they came from?

Can it be any worse there? Their situation is already so bad. Standing under the sun they suffer from skin diseases; absorbing all the pollution, their whole body gets poisoned. Do you know what it means to stand and suck in vehicle exhaust at forty-five degrees centigrade, in tattered clothing? Do you know what it means to suffer the humiliation of knocking at the doors of cars? And those doors, they are hot in the sun, even when you are knocking, your knuckles burn. Why don’t you just go back?

If you ask them, they will give the same argument that you are giving.

“Oh! We have nothing else to do. We are helpless. We have to do it.”

Do they really have to do it?

It is just a mental trap. They have internalised this helplessness.

It is a very cultivated helplessness.


Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: You are free, now why do you act helpless?


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