Who am I? The honesty with which I admit ‘I am my identities’

Acharya Prashant: (Speaking to the listeners)We are writing down in a free flowing way as many statements, beginning with ‛I am’, as we can write. The statements need to come directly from our daily life and daily experiences. They need to come from the way we live, we operate, we are, as human beings.

We are writing down and we are also taking a count. We will remember that in this, there are no right or wrong responses, we are just trying to take a look at the facts. All right! So what do we have with us now? We have a fair number of statements that begin with ‛I am’. How many could we gather? How many? Yes? Let’s just talk of it.

Listeners: (Listeners answering the total number of statements that they could write starting with ‛I am.’)

Twenty seven, thirty-four, fifty-two, twenty-four, Fifty Two, Forty Nine…..

Acharya Prashant: A good number for almost everybody. Now this is how we live our lives as identities, as a restless sense of ‛I am’, that is waiting to, that is eager to get associated with some object, any object. Since no particular object gives us total fulfillment, so this sense of ‘I am’ keeps travelling between different identities. “I am ‛A’, I am ‛B’, I am ‛C’, I am ‛D’”- and this is how we live. This is the direct and present fact of our life.

(Addressing the  audience) Now in front of this, just write, ‛As we are,’ as the ego is; just write it down please-‛As we are.’

Now I ask you, how many could you write down? Is the number final? Does it end here? Somebody said twenty-four, is a twenty-fifth not going to come? Is a twenty-fifth not already there? Yes?

Listener: It’s there.

Speaker: Is the seventieth one, not already there? Is it there or not? Is a two thousand and first one not already there? It just depends on the attention and time you give to this activity, and you will be able to fill a very large number of sheets. What does that show? That shows that this sense of I am, this inner vacancy, this restlessness is very eager to find a permanent partner. It wants to get wedded to the right entity, it wants to come to an association where it can ultimately rest.

The sense of I am says, I am ‛A’, but finds that ‛A’ cannot give that fulfillment to it which it is looking for. So after a while, it has to move to ‛B’. “I am B. Then I am C, then D.” And that is why the count will keep on increasing, will keep on growing. So the very reason that the count is a large number is that no particular number suffices. Since no particular number suffices, so we keep doing that which we can do, which is to try for an even bigger number, try for one more association, try knocking at one more door, try one more relationship, try one more venue.

Could we come to rest at some statement of perfect identity? The story, would have ended there. The very continuation and extension of this list suggests that we are not at peace. The search for that perfect partner remains on.

However, this search that is basically emanating from a restlessness, from an inner hollow, from an inner suffering, is usually decorated with very fine names. So you want to belong to an example, to a community, you want to belong to a family, you want to be called as associated with a person, you want to be identified with certain qualities. You would not call any of this as restlessness.

We give very nice, fancy, ornamented names to our situation. I will not say that I am moving from place to place because I am not all right at any particular place. I will say I am moving from place to place in order to gather experiences. And the force of conditioning is such that many of the identities that you have written down, they have been made respectable or admirable by religion, by convention, by society. So when you dawn those identities, it hardly ever crosses your mind that this is another act in restlessness, with the result that the fact of daily living gets obscured behind imported beliefs. Are you getting it?

At this point, if due to an act of grace, if due to an inner honesty, one wakes up to his own suffering, one becomes sensitive to his own predicament, if one gathers the guts to be honest, then one says that I will not sugarcoat something that is so bitter. I will not say that I am ambitious,  I will just say that I am craving to get fulfilment. I will not say that I am an achiever, I will say that I have been taught that I am incomplete, so I have gone on continuously to somehow feel complete.

For most people, this second stage never comes. It doesn’t come because we are contented with names rather than facts. We say that if I have been told that such and such situation is a good situation, then it must be a good situation. If I have been told such and such event is supposed to be a happy event, then it must be a happy event. Few are those who say that it doesn’t matter what the world think of these identities, what matter is how I am really living, really feeling, what matters is whether I am really peaceful.

Now for the small number of such people, the second stage is then a state of negation, a stage of rejection. Classically, it has been called as the process of ‛Neti-Neti’. ‛Neti’ means- ‘not this’ – ‛Na-iti’, ‘not this’. “No! I do not want this. No! Not this. Because this is not really that which I want. I cannot keep deceiving myself anymore. This is not that.”

The whole world might be feeling alright with it, but I am not feeling alright. The whole world might be congratulating me that I have landed an awesome job, but I am not quite okay with it. The whole world might be saying that such and such technique is wonderful thing but it’s not beneficial for me. I do not feel at rest.Not this. No! Not this.

And remember that this ‛Not-this’ is not an action. It is just an acknowledgment. Because a simple repulsion, ‛against-world’ state, is anyway already present and it is that repulsion which leads to the widening of this ever enlarging circle of identities. It is that which gives us craving for experience. May be the next experience would offer me that fulfillment which I am searching for,“Oh! It didn’t happen this time. Let me try something new, something fancy. Maybe from there, I will get it.”

There comes a point in the lives of a few people where they honestly admit that it is not working. It is not that. And that is the stage of rejection, negation. In this stage, one empties the total set of his accumulations, psychic accumulations, not material ones. One empties them not as a technique, but as a helplessness, but as an honest admission. I am not liking the flavour, how do I continue to drink it? The world might be saying that this is most nutritious, and most tasty and delicious, but to tell you the truth, I am not quite liking it. One empties it. When one empties these identities one after the another, one finds that there is progressively less and less to relate with.

Previously, one could very easily and very proudly say that ‘I am this’, ‘I am that’, now it becomes difficult. Now the moment you say, “‘I am this’, and ‘I am that'”, it reminds you of what does it really mean in your daily life; the set is vacant; the cup is empty. And then one notices something wonderful. That wonderful thing is that even after it is emptied, even after all the contents of the mind, of the cup has been poured out, yet one is able to live freely.

Associations looked indispensable, so necessary, absolutely central to existence. One would think that without this relationship, or that relationship, or that identification or that attachment, how will I survive? But having dropped that association, that attachment, that identity, one is not only surviving, but actually flourishing. At this stage, and only at this stage, must come the question: ‛Who am I?’

This we have called as ‛Myth demolition tour’. Daily we take up something and try to clear the myths that surrounds it. Today, we have taken up the ‘Who am I?’ method. So far we have gone through an outline of what this so called method, which is actually a non-method, what this so called method is really like? Now we go back having come to the third stage, having just touched it, not fully explored it, now we  go back to the first stage, and you will guide the discussion. Help me.

If somebody is in stage one, as most of us always are, what will be the answer to the question, ‛Who am I?’ Look at your sheets! You have written a lot. What will be the answer to the question ‛Who am I?’. You are in stage 1, as you are, because you have written so much. (Asking a listener) So if you are asked, ‛Who are you?’ What will your immediate answer will be?

L: Characteristics or identity.

AP: Characteristics or identity. Right? In fact when you are sure and certain of ‘who you are?’ as you are sure because you have written so much, when you are sure and certain of who you are, would you ever ask the question-‘Who am I?’ I am asking you again, forget about the answer to the question, would even the question ever come to you? You already have so many answers to the question-‛Who am I?’; then is the question relevant or meaningful or honest at all?

There is actually no question. One asks a question only when one feels that one does not know the answer. Am I right? If the answer is already known, would one ever ask ‛Who am I?’ So there is no point asking the question ‛Who am I?’; not at all because the answers is already known to us. I asked in the morning, “A cheque comes in your name. It’s bearing your name – Robert. Do you say, “Who is Robert?” You very well know you are Robert and you will encash the cheque. Do you not? Then why must we divorce daily life from a spiritual setting?

Why must we in a satsang or in a spiritual discourse start pretending as if we do not know the answer of this profound question? We already know the answer.

‛Who am I?’ I am a mother.

‛Who am I?’ I am a German.

‛Who am I?’ I am a Hindu.

‛Who am I?’ I am a doctor.

‛Who am I?’ I am a millionaire.

Don’t we already have so many answers. Please stay with me. We have to move together in this. Don’t we already have so many answers, sir? Anybody here who does not have answers? Nobody left his sheet blank. Did anybody leave his sheet blank? So we know the answer. When we know the answer, there is no possibility of any question. Infact asking the question would be very hypocritical. It’s like ‘I am ‛Julie’. Who am I? I am a mother of two. ‘Who am I?’

We have a Hindi film Sholay. You have heard of Amitabh Bacchan-the Superstar? He asks the actress, the actress is a very loquacious one. He asks her-“Basanti(actress’s name), what is your name?” Such is the irony when we ask, ‛Who am I? “Basanti, what is your name?”  When you already know the name, why you are asking the name?When you already have so many answers to ‛Who am I?’, how can you ever asks honestly ‘Who am I?’ Don’t you see the obvious absurdity contained in it?

In the second stage, comes grace. If we want we can call that a Guru or whatever we want to call- it could be life, it could be a scripture, it could be absolutely nothing at all. One fine morning you wake and you say, “enough.”

The first stage is of apparent comfort. You are settled in your identities. Within of course, there is movement, there is vibration, there is turbulence-but on the surface, everything is allright. You are a well adjusted social man. In the second stage, lies a lot of turbulence. The second stage, as we have said, is of rejection, negation, ‘Neti-Neti’. You could add another word to it; the second stage is of Sadhna and Tapasya.

The word ‛Tap’ is a beautiful word. Tap means to purify. It is related to heating something to cleanse it. It has the image of passing through fire.  Which means you are burnt down, you are turned to ashes, you are annihilated. The identities are burning down one after the other-Tapasya.  And this is the only real Sadhna – to see the suffering contained in the ways one is living and hence be sensitive enough to drop those ways. Loving oneself so much that one is not prepare to continue with the self inflicted torture anymore. Having faith that life is not meant to be suffering and hence if I am suffering, it must be surely because of something that I have accumulated. And if that be the case then I am prepared to give up the accumulation.

It is not a pleasant process, the second one I am talking of, it is not at all comfortable. You almost feel like dying. For us, life is a particular way – relationships, attachments, associations. When that goes, it appears as nothing is left as if one is passing away. The role of Grace, the role of the Guru, is to help you pass through that stage and before that, to push you to move into this stage. Left to oneself, one would never leave stage one.

Left to oneself, one would continue to suffer silently, weep quietly. In front of others, you would smile; and in your loneliness, in your dark corners, you would shed tears. And because you have presented a nice face to everybody, there is nobody who is going to come to you to say, that why must you continue to be like this.

The role of the Guru is to not to maintain the status quo of stage one. The role of the Guru is to firstly push you to stage two and then when you are in stage two, he offers you support so that you do not feel totally devastated. The role is two prompt. First of all, he wouldn’t let you feel comfortable.

The real guru is not at all interested in making you feel pleasant and nice and comfortable. He is not aiming to make you smile. He wants to bring the Truth to you and nothing short of that. He loves you so much that He wouldn’t settle for anything less than The Absolute. He says that you are worthy of the Total, how can you have anything less than That? He keeps on pushing you so that you move out of your comfort zone.

And when you are out of your comfort zone, you repeatedly wants to slip back. He will be there to both warn you and to support you. He will not present false consolations to you. He will not say, “Oh! It’s all nice, very nice, everything is lovable, life is all right as it is.” He knows you, He loves you, He reads your face. He can see the grief in the mind. He can see the hidden sadness in the eyes. He will help you despite your resistance. He will guide you in spite of your ingratitude. Because that is His role. That is grace.

You will only have ingratitude and abuses for the Real one because He will hurt you and that hurt is inevitable. That hurt is not coming from the Guru. That hurt is coming from ‛How’ and ‛What you have been’ in your past. It is your karmic load. But you attribute that hurt to the Guru. You say,“You hurt me.” He will bear that. He will keep pushing you and then you are enabled to have the courage to move out of the false, then you are enable to drop the masks and look at your own beautiful face.

We have lived so long with masks that we have start believing that the mask itself is the real face. We have become so accustomed to ugliness that when we look at our own beauty, we find it repugnant. The Guru is there to tell you that you are indeed beautiful and that you need no plastic, you need no make up. Exactly as you are, you are all right. And then comes a point when you are free. Then arises from within a cry of gratitude, called ‛Who am I?’

It is very important to dispel some myths regarding ‛Who am I?’

‛Who am I?’ is not a question. ‛Who am I?’ is a celebration.

‛Who am I?’ is a statement belonging to the same category as ‛Aham Brahmasmi’. It is a statement belonging to the same category as ‛Soham’. The Upanishads talk of  ‛Koham’ and ‘Soham‘ together. ‘Koham‘ is ‛Who am I?’ ‘Soham‘ is ‛That am I!’

When you want to express your bewilderment by saying that you are not all that which you thought yourself to be then you say-‛Naham’- I am not all that.When you to express a sense of ‛Aww!’, a sense of affirmation in saying that you still are something even if all the material identities are lost, then you say,“Who am I?- ‘Koham’.” And when you feel really settled, peaceful, and  find no words to express that which you are, then you just say, “That am I.” All these are just the same. And remember, none of these are utterances. None of these are words.

The Upanishads relate to the word ‛Aham’ in a number of ways. ‛Paurno-Aham’,‛Shunyo-Aham’, ‛Amrito-aham’, ‛Niradharo-Aham’, ‛Arthhino-Aham’. ‘Koham‘ is a statement belonging to that wide set. Every statement in that set means the same thing. It means, “I am not what I thought myself to be and yet it is such good fun.” It is not a question to be asked. It has no answer. It is so subtle that you cannot capture it in thought. You cannot think that you are going to ask ‛Who am I?’ It cannot be recommended to somebody that you ask ‛Who am I?’

Even if it is recommended to ask ‛Who am I?’, if you are the asker, if you are the questioner, then the answer is obvious; I am the questioner. “‘Who am I?’ I am the Questioner.”

‛Who am I?’ arises. You do not ask it. It arises without your permission. It is a blossoming.

The method therefore cannot be to ask ‛Who am I?’ The method has to be to begin with-‛I am’. Not ‘Who am I? ‛I am’- because that is the direct fact of our life. I begin with ‛I am’. I begin with that which I believe myself to be. I begin with that as which I am leading moment after moment. I begin with honesty. I do not begin with a hypothesis. I begin with the practical fact. I do not begin with a theory contained in some book.

So one begins with asking-‛I am’. And one doesn’t even have to ask because that which you are acting as, is unraveling itself in every single action that we undertake.

“I am a listener.”

‛‛I am a walker.”

“I am a shopkeeper.”

“I am a buyer or customer.”

So what is the point in even asking? It is already there.

You know, the more clearly and directly you see that you are acting as an identity and the identity is preset, the identity is so mechanical, so mechanical that if you are acting as an employee, it becomes certain that what kind of conduct you will undertake. When you are acting as a husband, then you can no longer act as the employee. Every identity is a prewritten script.

You very well know that how you are supposed to behave when you are ‛X’ v/s when you are ‛Y’. When you start seeing this thing, then a distaste arises in you. You do not quite like it. You say,“What is the fun in living a predetermined life? A fellow must be himself.” It is so certain that when I belong to a particular country, then I do not like it when my country loses a war or even loses a hockey match.

When  I act as a father, then it becomes certain that two particular kids matter more to me then all the kids in the world and it is so boring, so repetitive. It is happening with every father since ages. It is so certain and so pre-scripted that I may not be a father yet but I already know that when I will become a father I’ll have to behave in such ways because that is the way ‛The father’ must behave and every father does behave in that way. Then, you rebel against this. The rebellion is not something of your own.

Of your own, is only the accumulation. The cleansing, the purification, the catharsis is not one’s own. We have already said that it is an act of Grace. Grace, which shows up in the form of anything. That anything need not to be a person. Let’s just call that anything as the ‛Guru’. And the role of the ‛Guru’, we repeat, is to not to let stage one linger on. Guru has also been called as death in the scriptures. For this reason only.

And it is simple; if Guru literally means the agency that takes one from darkness to light, then what does Guru means to darkness? Death. So that is the reason Guru has been described as an annihilator and if we are in the stage of darkness, then to us, Guru would indeed appear like death and that is one mark of a true Guru. He is not pleasant. He is very difficult to be liked.

And that is one mark of the fake one. He would be very pleasant. He would help you maintain your world. He will lubricate your wheels, and gears and nuts and bolts. He will want that same old machinery to continue functioning. The real one comes with a hammer. He dismantles the old machinery. He has no interest, no stake in letting the conditioned machine continue to function because that conditioned machine means suffering to you and He operates from Love.

You may call Him death but the fact is He is love, personified. Because He is love personified so He is prepared to run the risk of your anger. He very well knows that his acts and words will be taken as harshness, arrogance, even cruelty. In spite of that he does what must be done. His religion is Truth. He is not out there to please.

Are you getting it?

The words of the great Seers must be taken with utmost caution. They come from a very deep silence and can be understood in a silence equally deep. When the Upanishads say, “Soham-That am I” If you are not careful , you will interpret it to mean that ‛I am That, and ‛That’ is something.” Had ‛That’ been something, why would the Seer say ‛That’? They would have said ‛That something’, given it a name.

When the Upanishads say, “Brahmasmi Aham”, it does not mean that the seer is calling us as Brahm. Remember that the speaker, the ‘I’, the aham, from where these words are coming, is in a very deep state of meditation. It is from there that these words are arising. If we take this sentence to mean that “I am Brahm”, then it is a tragedy and it is easy to do that.

The Upanishads are saying, “I am Brahm”. So you say, “Oh! See it is been certified that I am Brahm”. No! The Upanishads are not saying that ‘You are Brahm’. That ‛I’ to which the seer is referring to is a totally different ‘I’. It is an unidentified ‘I’. It is a pure ‘I’. But it is easy to co-opt this statement and start feeling good about it. Now you say, “See ! I always believed that I am the most wonderful one and now even the Rishi of the Upanishads has validated that. See what he is saying? He is saying, “You are Brahm“. So I am Brahm.”

Those words can be understood only in the same absence of consciousness in which they were first uttered. Remember, ‛absence of consciousness’ which means absence of thought, which means you could not be thinking about these things; which means you cannot be consciously trying to use these things as a method. Consciously, you can do only that which consciousness allows you to do. Consciousness is composed of daily experiences. So using consciousness, using thought, at most you can see where you are standing and that is all. That is all. “I am X.” And full stop. No need to go any further than that. Why? Because after that is the act of grace. “I am X.”

I like to say that it is like a relay race, in which one runner passes the baton to the other and then the other one starts running. As you are, your job is only to run first hundred metres and then stop. You are not to continue running. You stop answering “I am This.” and thereafter grace takes over. You stop! And that is the method. Full Stop. So simple that it appears incredible.

The method is to just say, “I am.” I am right now acting like a doctor. I am right now acting like a lover. And what is the difference between a lover and a acting like a lover? In acting like a lover, you do what all the lovers of the world do. You repeat that same ancient story. There is no newness, no freshness, no scope for unpredictability. In fact unpredictability becomes undesirable. You do not like it.

 ‘I am’.

“I am acting like a spiritual seeker.” and what does that mean? That means I will wear clothes of a particular kind,  I will go to particular kind of classes, I will recite particular kind of mantras, I will wear a particular expression on my face, I will visit such Ashrams, I will go to such satsangs. And that is called acting as a spiritual seeker. Now that is very different from being a spiritual seeker because the spiritual seeker does not really play the same old record. He does not in advance know that such are the places to go. He does not in advance know

Let me make it a little more vivid.

If a fellow is coming to you from the front down the road and just by looking at him, you are able to say that he is a spiritual seeker, then rest assured he cannot be a spiritual seeker. Because how did you come to know that he is a spiritual seeker? Through his attire, through his personality, through his way of walking and the rest of that. You know that in advance, he too knows that in advance, and it is a mutual contract.

It’s like relaying of a signal. A signal accord whose meaning is determined already in advance. Just like red means danger when it comes to railways; similarly saffron means spiritual when it comes to spirituality. So what appears certain, strange are the ways of Truth; what appears certain, is the first one to be rejected as dubious. If someone ticks all the right boxes, then it is certain that he is not the right one. Had he been the right one, why would he have taken care to tick all the right boxes?

The right one, by definition is free, unpredictable, fresh, new. So, do not give yourself this doubt that I may not be acting, I might actually be this. The actuality is the action of the core. It is not a roleplay. It is tragic, the degree of roleplay we do.

Let’s do a small mental exercise that will make it clearer. I say, “lovers”. Visualise. Were you able to visualize? Come on! Speak up! Were you able to visualize?

Listeners: Yes.

Speaker: How it is possible that we are able to visualize in advance, what lovers look like? It means that we already know that this is how you act when you are in love; so which means when we have to prove that we are on love, it is very easy. What would we do? Act like that. Sitting over here, we already know that they are lovers if they are walking hand in hand, they are lovers if they are spending time together, they are lovers if they are sleeping together. So if I have to prove myself that I am a lover it’s simple. “Tick all those boxes.” tick all those boxes and it is proven that you are a lover.

Next one! “Guru,” visualize. Could you visualize? Yes?

Listeners: Yes.

Speaker: So you already know in advance what a guru looks like. Even the guru knows in advance what he has to do to look like a guru. Even the guru knows in advance, exactly what he has to do to look like a guru. Don’t you see the inherent trap in all this?

“Happy”, visualize.

“Relaxing”, visualize. Could you visualize?

L: Yes.

AP: Which means you already know what it would look like when you are relaxing. So it is very easy for them to convince you that you are relaxing by? By? By being in that place and acting in that way. So the moment I said, “relaxing”, the image that came to the mind was, a very comfortable chair on the beach and lying down with a towel on the face and some beverages kept by the side; which means that now you do not need real relaxation.

What do you need now? Come on! What do you need now? You need to just materialize that image. You need to go to a beach of that kind, you need to lay down like that, you need to order those beverages, you need to cover your face with that towel and now you can convince yourself, cheat yourself into saying that I am having a good time, I am relaxing.

Is there anything that is not an image for us? I can continue the whole night asking you to visualize something and you will always have a visual; and that is so horrifying. We have visual for everything. I say, “enlightenment”, visualize.

And even for that you have something. You want to take it to the extreme? “God,” visualize. Now someone may come up and say, “No! I couldn’t visualize.” then I’ll say,“If I show the picture of horse and say God, will you agree?” No! You wouldn’t agree. Which means this much you atleast know that God is not a horse; which means you have some image of some kind. Had you had absolutely no image, then you could have agreed. You could have said, “Yes! God could be the horse also.” Had you had absolutely no image, then you could have said,“That! Yes. God could be a horse. I do not know.” but some idea of even God you have. Which means if somebody has to act like God, it is so easy for him.

That “Advait”, the small organisation that I run, with students of various ages and it is quite fun. Sometimes we ask them to role play. We say role play like God and nobody have ever refused. Everybody is able to roleplay like God; and what does it mean? Go into that. What does that mean? If kids are able to role play like God, what does that mean? That they already have an image of what God is like; and if you already have an image what God is like, the entire world has an image. Which means it is very easy to play God and cheat you.

The only method is to look honestly, brutally honestly at the facts of one’s life. When I am purchasing vegetables at a grocery store, is it not easy to see that I am acting in a particular way. When I am driving a car, and the car is stopped by a police man, isn’t it easy to see that I am afraid, a slight chill rises; some nervousness. When my concepts are challenged, isn’t it easy to see that I become a little alert, a little protective of myself. Isn’t it easy to see that I become insecure?

When I look at that big-big car, it means something to me. That car does not means to make the same things as any other two-wheeler. That car means something more to me, something special to me. Is it not easy to see that I am somebody who calls that car; I may not admit it. But had that car meant nothing to me, then the car and the two-wheeler, have been just the same. I couldn’t have accorded more respect to someone who is coming out of that car compared to someone who is riding down from the two-wheeler. And do we do that or not? A large car stops in front of you and somebody descends from that, and compared to that, somebody comes riding an old bicycle. Have we not noticed?

Spirituality is not about abstract mumbo-jumbo. Spirituality is simple and direct common sense; coming in touch with simple facts of one’s life. Spirituality is not meant to take you anywhere else – some heaven, some Paramatman, some enlightenment. Spirituality is meant to show you where you are exactly.When you see where you are, then you reach where you must.

It’s parallel, concurrent. There is nobody who does not know where he or she is. We do not need to ask ourselves, “How am I feeling? What is going on? Who am I?” No! Because we are the experiencer, who else will know? We already know.

We already know the facts our daily living. There is nobody who does not know. The gap lies in just the acknowledgement. We do not acknowledge it. We do not acknowledge it because society has told us that a few things are bad and ugly and impermissible and they should not be acknowledged. For example: I cannot acknowledge to myself that I cohabit the neighbors wife because if I acknowledge to myself then it would be very difficult for me to show my face to the priest. And forget about the priests; it would be very difficult for me to face myself. My own self worth will take a beating.

So even the fact presents itself to me in various ways, I will suppress that fact.

Spirituality is about getting rid of morality. Nothing is good or bad. Just acknowledge. Just acknowledge that this is the way it is. Acknowledge with all the confidence that even if you are stained, fallen, and ugly in your own eyes, yet existentially, you are absolutely beautiful. So acknowledgement will not bring any harm to you. You can freely accept that this is what is going on in my life day-by-day, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour and yet you will meet no punishment. In fact, you are already meeting punishment for not acknowledging.

Spirituality is an honest acknowledgement. It begins with that and it also ends at that – I am this. I am distracted. I am afraid. I am seeking to escape. But if you admit that you are seeking to escape, then you will have to admit that there is something to hide. You will have to admit that there is something wrong somewhere. So we wouldn’t admit that we are shivering. Instead we pretend that all is hunky-dory and you know well, nothing is happening. Yeah! It’s time to get up and walk away. Nice evening! We spent some good moments here. Now let’s go and occupy on some other things.

The fact is, that the sound of Truth unsettled you so much that you are compelled to walk away; and you know that. Had you not known that, why would you have walked away in the first place? Yours walking away needs no questioning. It is the fact and the proof of the fact.

Spirituality is faith. Faithfully, without fear, one simply presents his nakedness to the Truth. One simply says, “This is what has become of me. This is what I am. I have nothing else to offer. I wouldn’t conceived a facts. I wouldn’t hide my wounds. I am prepared to open up and in any case even if I decide not to open up, the Truth within me already knows what is going on. So what am I getting by hiding? What am I getting by putting on a smiling face? I deserve Joy, absolute joy. Nothing less than that. These faint and fake smiles are such a cheap substitute for Joy.” Yes?

I do not know whether you still want to call it a method because a method involves doing something in time; a method involves a process. What I have just said is instantaneous. It does not require time to fructify. As soon as it is happening, parallely, it is clear what is happening. It’s not really a method. It is just a way of living. A simple, innocent, way of living.

Yes! Your queries?

L1:  So you ask us to empty ourselves..

AP:  No, emptying cannot happen till you first see that the stuff that there is deserve to be empty. So emptying, you can easily forget. You just be attentive to what fills you up. Emptying just happens on its own.

L2: We are essentially born emptied, but then the things that we acquire..

AP: To an extent. But we are actually not born empty. Even if you look at the newly borns, they have their peculiar characteristics. So you are born with biological conditioning. It is not that you are born empty, clean, a clean slate or such things; no. You are born at least with your genome, with your biological characteristics. Later on, all the social stuff gets overlaid and the interactions of these two, shows up in various events of our life.

So if you just look directly at what is happening in life, moment after moment. If you see not everybody here, right now is sitting in the same way. You look at some people and they are still, pictures of concentration, absolutely lovely. And there are others, fidgeting. And this simple fact is the story of entire life. If one can go to it, be close to it, everything is revealed.

But one can also sweep it under the carpet. “Oh! It’s nothing, you know! It’s one of those regular things.” Every single action that one does contains the total story of our evolution. The whole ancient story is contained in even the smallest of actions. But one need not be such a prolific reader. It’s very difficult to read the entire story in that one thing. But there is opportunity for us because we are continuously acting. Life is continuously unfolding. There are experiences one after the other. So if you miss the story in one experience, then you can gather it in the next one. You only need to have the intention of honesty. If the intention is of subterfuge, then obviously! All you will get is some..

L2:  When it comes down to, I think I am a little confused, relations,or thinking in terms of Nouns opposed to verbs about how our identity works with that about the shoulds of the two.

AP: It does not matter whether it is a noun or a verb. If it is a noun, it will still lead to an action. If it is a Verb, it means that the action is already happening. If you say, I am a father; and that’s a noun. You would know the father through his actions; through fatherly actions, and now you have the verb in picture. So it doesn’t matter whether it is a verb or a noun. These are small things. What matters is, that I am acting in ‘that’ way. I am carrying ‘this’. And it has become so important to me. The moment I am this(identity), it is so important for me. It is so important for me, that even The Truth takes a back seat.

It’s actually so easy that we find it impossible. That which is the easiest is often the one that is missed the most. It is so easy that it is impossible to believe in it.

L3: What do you ultimately want for the people listening to you or taking your advice?


Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid because you conceal your facts from yourself only because you are afraid. You do not admit your situation to yourself only because you are afraid. Have faith! Have faith that you are being taken care of. There is no need to try smartness. There is no need to act clever. There is no need to hide. Just open up. Just be naked. Don’t be afraid.

L4: Sir in doing that, being true to yourself, sometimes it is difficult because it reveals things that I do not know about myself and I go for social acceptance

AP:  Yes! But when you see that the cost of seeking that social acceptance is a very high cost, then you don’t want to pay the price. And when you see parallely that your peace is paramount and so valuable, then you want to pay every price for that peace. So pay that price. Even if socially you are ostracized, even if you face some losses. Go for it. Be a man and face it.

L3: Sir, is there any certain method that you can do to be honest with yourself all the time?

AP:  Avoid situations which are patently situations of dishonesty, at least for a while. Avoid places where you know that for certain, dishonesty would be at play; even if I repeat, there is a price to be paid, pay the price. You very well know that if you go to that social gathering, you will have to act like a jovial employee; it’s an office party and when it is a office party, you must play a role. You know it’s just a role, you know, you would be compelled to play it. Pay the price. Avoid that party.

If there is a particular person who keeps demanding that you behave in a certain way; avoid that person. He will not allow you to be yourself. He will make sure that you are acting as per a script. He will make sure that you are acting as per his expectations. And, promote and value and respect those people, places, situations more where you get a chance to be authentic. Be there and offer your gratitude there.

L: How is a Guru different than these people? Guru encourages you to be in a certain kind of way. He mould oneself in one direction or another.

AP: Yes! That’s what the minds want the Guru to do – suggest a particular direction. Show me the way. A real Guru never shows you a way, He just shows you the futility of your own ways. He shows you that your own ways have only brought you ruin and He tells you that you are capable of now finding a different way. I need not suggest you a way. You have all the capability and all the potential. You will find your way.

So the Guru, the real Guru will never suggest a way to you. He is not in that business. He relieves you of your diseases, and leaves you free in your health. And in your health, you can play around, do whatever you want to do, he wouldn’t interfere. That’s not His business. He quickly excuses himself. He fades away. He retires. You wouldn’t find Him anymore in your life after His task is done. He goes away.

L: How can one incorporate meditation in trying to be honest?

S: This is meditation.

Wherever you can be silent, wherever you don’t feel the need to be turbulent, that is meditation. Meditation is not about following certain practices. Yesterday I asked, if meditation is about following few practices in a limited time of the day, then how will you meditate when you are swimming, or driving your car, or cooking your meals, or in love making. How will you meditate? Meditation is your own inner honesty. Meditation is your own deep commitment to peace. And it’s a continuous commitment. You are never an infidel. You are forever surrender to The Truth. That is meditation. I repeat, meditation is not at all about following a particular schedule, or sitting in a particular way, and acting in a particular pattern. That is not meditation.

Yes, please?

L: Do you think that associating with particular identities can help us to be a better person. For example: I am kind, I am generous, and thinking about these things will make me better?

AP: It will only help you be more of the person that you are. Pay attention to this. We like to say, for example: I am generous. Who decided that being generous is good? So I am somebody. Now I also wants to be generous! Why do I want to be generous? Who decided that being generous is good? Come on! If you want to be generous, who is deciding that being generous is good? You. So being generous, is then, just an extention of yourself. It is not something new. Do you see this? It is just an extention of yourself because you are the one who is choosing to be generous.

So, ‘no identity’ is a better identity than any other identity. It’s an easy trap to fall in. One says, “Certain identities are more preferable compared to others.” No! An identity is an identity and freedom is freedom. A prison is a prison, doesn’t matter what the name of the prison is. A prison is a prison, no matter how well decorated a prison is.

L3: Whatever I have heard just now, it’s like we should not have any identity at all.

AP: No. The moment you say that we should not have any identity at all, you already have a conclusion which will block you from watching your identities. Who says identities are bad? At least we are in no position to say that identities are bad. Had we known that identities are bad, why would we have maintained them? It behoves us more to simply say that identities are wonderful because we are cling to identities. So do not ever start from a hypothetical position. Never! Never!

Spirituality is not about assumptions. Spirituality is hard facts. We live in identities; and that is a fact. Now figure out that fact. Now see that fact in action. Now see how it plays out in every aspect of one’s life. That’s spirituality!

If you have been continuously told that greed or sexuality is bad, wouldn’t it become difficult for you to accept and acknowledge your lust? Wouldn’t it become difficult? Never start with value statements. Start with the present fact and end there as well.

L4: Do you think that evolution of human ego and creating identities is some kind of mistake?

AP: No! Not some kind of mistake. Just a fact. Because the moment you call it a mistake, you are condemning it, and when you are condemning it, you are again blocking it.

L5: That  seems like it’s not so useful for us.

AP: See, the only thing why we are having this discussion and why any identity might be dropped. We do not know whether it will be dropped, we are open. The only reason why it might be dropped is if it leads to suffering. I am even prepared to say that if the identity is not leading to suffering, kindly carry on with it. So, the purpose is not to live by an ideal, not having identities. Please pay attention to this-‛not having identities’ is not a question of maintaining an ideal. It is just a question of not needlessly suffering. If identity leads to suffering, then obviously identity needs to be dropped. If identity, you figure out, is not leading to suffering, then by all means, maintain it.

L6: If my identity is leading to some kind of self suffering, but ultimately leading to good of others, that is perhaps a positive in itself.

AP: It’s a contradictory statement. If I am saying that that everybody is benefiting from a certain identity that I carry, but I am suffering then surely I am not happy that the others are benefitting. Go closely to what you said. You said, everybody is happy because of something that I am doing, but I myself am miserable. How can you be miserable if everybody is happy? That means you are not happy in others happiness and if you are not happy in others happiness, how will you practicality carry on with an identity that makes others happy but keeps you miserable? Do you see the paradox inherent in your question?

L6: Ideally, yes!

AP: No! I have not talked any ideal. I have brought it out very very practicality. It is impossible to be of help to others, without being first, of help to yourself. It is a very practical thing. A man who is himself traumatised cannot bring joy to others.

L6: Ambition is to prove yourself to others………

AP: Or to yourself.

L6: Okay! And ambition, if its lead to suffering as you explained, and if you are successful in your ambition. Now you are enjoying that your suffering is making others happy.

AP:  I am asking you, if I am suffering, do I really know what is good for me? Had I really known what is good for me, would I have suffered? If I do not know what is good for me, how do I know what is good for others? But it is very easy to believe in this. I do not know what is good for me, but I very well know what is good for the world. Don’t you see so many people trying to help others when it is obvious that they have never been able to help themselves. And what is the result?

L6: But is it not impossible to..

AP: No! It is totally impossible. Look at parents who try to help their kids without having first helped themselves. Look at the state of the world around you. Everybody is a helper. Everybody wants to do good and yet the world is coming close to destruction everyday.

L6: I disagree because the world is better now and..

AP:  Do you know that February was the hottest month ever in the history of the mankind? Do you know that the path that we are walking down, in our own lifetime, your and mine, we may not see this river anymore.(referring to the river Ganga flowing at some distance from the session hall)

L6: In the last four years, we have seen greatest increase in world peace.

AP: In the last forty years, we have seen the greatest increase in the global temperature, and greatest increase in the nuclear arsenal. What are you talking? Where is global peace?

L6: There have been no major conflicts between..

AP: There have been no major open, and explicit conflicts. But we have been coming closer to the trigger all the time. The trigger is pulled, the bullet has not been fired. Do you call it peace? Such a peace is another name for destruction sir. This river that you are seeing is coming from a continuously sinking glacier sir. This river that you are seeing, if you go just a little downstream, in the other cities, it is one of the filthiest rivers in the world. This is what the last forty years have done.

We stand at more than eight billion now. This is what the last forty years have done. The disparity in income is highest today than it ever was. We are absolutely closer to destruction than we ever were. What are we talking? In fact, it is just a matter of grace that we have not been totally annihilated.

L5: If we go back to identity, If I perfectly answer myself that there are some qualities that I want to change.

AP:  You are somebody who is living with those qualities. Now that which you are also wants to change those qualities. These qualities came to you as a result of your choice. By admitting that you want to change them, you are admitting that the chooser is misled because he made a dubious decision. Now how are you saying that the same chooser will make a better decision? With the maker of the choice remaining the same, how will the quality of the choice improve? But that’s what we keep believing in!

L7: Does the experience count for learning from the result of our actions?

AP: No! You can keep sleeping for a thousands years and yet you would know nothing. What we call as an experience, is just a repetition of pattern. You are walking down the same road everyday, same road and you are gathering a lot of experience in terms of number of years. What will those experiences give you?

Realization counts; not experience. Experience only give you age.

Even at this moment, if you notice, many of us are not saying anything because we are not sure whether it is proper to say those things. It is impossible to be so silent inwardly that we have nothing to say. We all have something to say, but like shy school kids, we are apprehensive that somebody may laugh at us. Open! It doesn’t matter what the others think, what the others say.

L8: Would you continue to what you just said a while back that the qualities that you feel brings suffering to your life?


Whatever you choose for yourselves will only be the extension, continuation of the same suffering. The Real comes to you, not by your own choice but by grace. So what can one do? One can at most see the futility of one’s own choices. Not try to make the right choice, the right choice ‛you’ cannot make. The right choice will be made for you by some other agency. You can only see that the choices that you have made, have all fallen flat; and hence one’s confidence in one’s own choices is misplaced. One choice after the other is not bringing peace to me, then how can I continue to choose in the same way. Let me pause, let me stop. Then maybe, the choice will happen on it’s own. It happens. It does happen.

L8: I want to know what exactly is suffering?

AP: That which you do not like. Anything that keeps the mind in excitement, in a state of movement.

L8: So the goal is not to Like.

AP: The goal is not to be in a state that one does not like.

L3: The goal is just to be in the present?

AP: The goal is to know that which we are. The goal is not to top big stuff. The goal is to look at our petty facts.

L7: You have talked about the two stages but very less on the third.(Have made question by listening to the answer.)

AP: I only talked about two because the third one is not in the province of man. The third one happens on it’s own. The first one is our own. The second one is Guru and Grace. The third one is just a flowering of silence. So what can one say about it?

L9: Why do we think that we need a Guru to have peace?

AP: The peace is the Guru. You are trying to find peace. Right? Which means that there is something missing; otherwise there is no question of trying and finding. You are trying to find peace which means you don’t have peace and yet you are trying for peace which means you are trying to get something of which you have very little idea.

Peace itself calls you to peace. That is the Guru. Guru is not something or somebody who lives in a Ashram.Your own peace which continuously beckons you, is the Guru.

This beckoning, can come to you in the shape of physical beings as well. It may, it may not. Even the physical beings keep changing. But essentially the Guru is not a physical being, it is your own peace.

L8: When it comes down to the use of language, like in my own relationship to all these concepts and my images of them, my method has been- “Okay! I am just going to collect all these images of all this spectrum, of the semantical ways, that something can be understood and then I end up going to another end, where it is like- “I don’t know what it means?” So, I don’t know? It is difficult to choose.

AP: Don’t choose anything. What is the point in choosing? What is real, is obvious and present. There is nothing else. So where is the question of choice? Will you choose something that is not there? Choice is possible only if there is an alternative. To reality, what is the alternative? So what do you want to choose? “I am afraid.” Now where is the question of choice in it? “I am afraid.” Where is choice in this? You are afraid and that’s it. Full stop! Now what do you want to choose?

L9: You can choose to overcome.

AP: What you call as an overcoming of fear is just a suppression of fear; a very-very dangerous thing. Never try that. When fears comes, let it pass through you fully. Never try to fight it. Never try to overcome it. Acknowledge it fully. Tremble, shake and tell yourself, “Oh! I am so afraid.” Never try to fight it or overcome it. I don’t know from where these teachings are coming?

L5: How about chasing down fear and facing it?

AP: Yes! Facing them. Not only facing them, because facing is sometimes synonymous with blocking. Facing in the sense of seeing. That’s a better one. Face them.

L7: To me, it seems like if I want to go from that first stage to the second stage(referring to the stages the speaker mentioned earlier in the article), there will be a lot of fear involved in it because you necessarily do not know the outcome where you will go.

AP: So don’t imagine. That’s why I said that the process starts and stop at stage 1. Full stop! Second and third, you leave to other agencies. It’s a relay race, you leave it to them. You concern yourself only with your immediate reality, stage one. Don’t try to pre-think because if you will imagine, you will only imagine horror and that will block the stage one itself. The more you imagine  stage two, the less you will be affected in stage one. So, cut down those thoughts. Don’t give them energy.

Never ask yourself-“Who am I?” It’s a disrespect to the question. Never! Just see that you are “this” and “this”.

L5: What is the subject for tomorrow that you will be speaking on?

AP: I didn’t even know what is the subject for today. How can I tell the subject for tomorrow? No! Actually. But it would be some myth.

L3: You say, don’t ask the question ‛Who am I?’. But whenever a person went to Ramana Maharshi and ask a question, he always put a question back to him-‛Who is asking the question? Who am I?’.

AP: The words of saints must be taken with utmost care. To comprehend what Ramana Maharishi was saying, you need that same awareness. Never take the words of the saint literally. If you do that, you will be mistaken. You will totally misinterpret. Go to the saint, sit in his presence and that’s all. The Upanishads offer a range, a whole plethora of words that associates with ‛Aham’. Ramana Maharishi had a fondness for one particular expression-‛Koham’. That’s it!

The inquiry ‛Koham’ manifests not as ‛Who am I?’ See it is very obvious that if you are asking ‛Who am I?’ it is as if you do not know; and by repeatedly asking ‛Who am I?’ you will establish to yourself that you do not know. Do you ask a question when you already know the answer? Do you ask for the keys when you already have then in your pocket? And not only you have them in your pocket, you also know that you have them in your pocket. Start from the right point. Start from honesty.

‛Who am I?’ is a dishonest beginning because ‛Who am I?’ is saying-I do not know who I am? So I am asking who I am? You know. And if you know, then why you are asking the question; quickly tell the answer. What did we begin today’s session with? All the answers. Don’t we already know the answers. If you know the answers, why you are asking-“Who am I?” And don’t even say that all those are fake answers.

For us, only those answers are real. Are they or are they not? Or, would you rather say that, “You are Sacchidanand, and you are Aatman.” You forget all those answers when real life situations come. You forget all  those answers when you have a quarrel with the neighbor; or when a bank issues a notice, then you forget all those answers. Then you are no more sacchidanand. So forget all ideals and theories. Live in the practical reality.

Who does not know who he is? I am waiting for that man. Even when we are talking to each other, do you see that we are facing each other. If I have to talk to you by looking at you that itself proves who we are. If I talk to you like this (pointing to someone else while speaking to the listener), would you like it? If I have to talk to you by looking at you, is that not already answering who we are? We are the body. That’s why I have to look at the body. Had you been anything, then I could have looked anywhere and talk to you. But I have to speak to you only by looking at your body. So even in looking at you, I am already answering ‛Who I am?’ What is the point in asking the question ‛Who I am?’

L8: Besides avoiding situations, where one would be encourage to dishonest, are there any particular cases which helps to encourage a breakdown of moral root honesty?

AP: Even that simple precaution is enough and very difficult for most people because it is not one or two situations that are situations of dishonesty. As we are, most situations that we find ourselves in, are situations of dishonesty. So this means if you want to avoid dishonesty, you have to practicality avoid everything; which means your entire world will come crashing down. Do you want more? What more do you want?

L8: What is honesty?

AP: Honesty is that, which you will not like it, if I give a fake answer to this question. Honesty is the vigour in your question-‛What is honesty? Honesty means you really want to know the Truth. That is honesty! Did you see how you acted? (Repeating the listener’s response) ‛What is honesty?’ You really want to know. That is honesty.

L4: Did you recommend twenty-four hours satsang?

AP: Yes. Ofcourse! Twenty-four seven satsang. A satsang that ends is no satsang at all. Satsang means continuous surrender to The Truth; and in that continuous surrender, sometimes you come to me, sometimes you walk on the road, sometimes you are in your room, sometimes you are eating.

Sang’ is the company; ‛Sat’ is the Truth. I like being only with The Truth. Truth is my partner, my friend, my love. That is Satsang. It has to be twenty-four seven. Otherwise, it is nothing.

The ‛Tapasya’, the heat for the ‛tap’ comes only from the Truth. You will not get the energy for ‛Tapasya’ without being in touch with The Truth. You know ‛Tapasya’ requires tremendous amount of energy. That energy cannot be of the mind. That energy comes only from Truth. But you forget about stage two. Remain in stage one. Stage one- ‛I am.’ And you have written a lot about stage one. Thirty, fourty, fifty; I am ‛this’, I am ‛this’. Continuously catch yourself acting like this or that; continuously. Soon you will be so tired of all this, that you will throw it away.

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

Watch the sessionAcharya Prashant: Who am I? The honesty with which I admit ‘I am my identities’

Read more articles on this topic:

Article 1: What is the ‘Who am I’ method?

Article 2: Asking ‘Who am I’ is honesty in face of falseness

Article 3Constant remembrance “I am” takes me beyond what I think I am


Books by the speaker:

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