Listener: Why are we always scared? In a class if I’m sitting and I’ve to ask question to our teacher, then why do we always think that what people will think of us if I ask this question?
Acharya Prashant: What’s your name?
L: I’m Kiran.
AP: Kiran. Sit Kiran. First of all it’s a little amusing that the one who’s confidently getting up and asking the first question is saying why am I hesitant to ask question. Kiran who’s hesitating to ask, you?
L: Now I’m confident to ask. But few years back I was not so confident. I just wanted to know that reason.
AP: Leave that Kiran. That Kiran is gone. This Kiran is no more nervous. Is she nervous? In front of everybody she’s interacting, sitting right in the front seat. The moment I say ‘Ask’, she shoots the question. If anybody is not nervous here it’s you. The others should ask, “Why are we hesitating? Why can’t we just come forth and speak?”
It’s simple. There is no great secret in this. You’re afraid. You should ask, “Who’s there to be afraid of?” You’re afraid from the audience. It’ll become very simple for you to ask the question if there were nobody here, had this hall been vacant. There would have been no problem in your mind. Is there anybody who hesitates to speak even in a vacant room? Is there anybody who gets nervous even in front of the mirror when nobody else is watching? Does that happen? It’s just that the mind is very afraid of others.
And you should ask, “These others are just my batch mates, some of them are my friends. Why am I afraid of them?”
It doesn’t matter. Friend or enemy, the mind constantly lives in fear of the other. Wherever there is the perception of another person, fear arises. Otherness itself is fear.
We’ll understand that.
Otherness is fear because what we call as ourselves is itself a creation of others. What you call as “Me” is a creation of others. You’re not independent of others. The others have in every possible way contributed to giving you your self-concept. Any and everything that you know about yourself, any and every way in which you can describe yourself really comes from others.
Ask yourself, “Is there anything about me which has come without others?” Your name, your religion, your very body, your food, your opinion about yourself, all the knowledge you’re carrying in your head, each single one of your identities, everything is coming from others. We are deeply, slavishly dependent upon others. Is that not so?
You come in the morning and someone says, “Nice, looking pretty,” and you swell up. And in the afternoon somebody says, “What happened to you? Why looking so gloomy?” And you wonder,“Is that so?”. You say something to an audience and the audience applauds and you feel so good, and you say the same thing and the audience doesn’t applaud, rather it hoots you, and you’re downcast. You don’t know what to do. The state of your mind is dictated by the whims, by the fancies of others. And you have, it’s terrifying, and you have nothing which is really your own.
Now when I’m so absolutely dependent on others, it’s natural that I’ll be afraid of others. I’ll be afraid that they may take back what they have given me. They have given me recognition, they will take back that recognition. Money has come from others. My name has come from others. My knowledge has come from others. My complete self-esteem has come from others. They may take it back. “I get up and ask a question and others may just boo me down. “Oh my God! What will happen to me. Nothing will be left of me. I’ll feel insulted and humiliated.” Right?
Krishna says in the Gita:
“द्वितीयात वै भयं भवति“
“Wherever there is the other, there is fear“
The existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre had said “The other is hell.”. Hell is nothing but the other. The moment there’s this separation, the presence of other, the mind will immediately get alert out of fear. Now do we stop at that. Now do we just say that this is how the fear arises, or we move to the obvious remedy. You feel hesitant in the presence of other because you’re dependent on the other, and that means you’re afraid.
The root to fearlessness is to reduce your dependencies. The less dependent you’re on others the more fearless you’ll feel. And the more dependent you’re on others, you’ll keep spending your life in fear. Look at the thousand ways in which you constantly keep on depending on somebody. The deeper is your dependency, the deeper will be your fear.
The one who finds something within himself or herself which cannot be taken away by anybody, which is not dependent on anybody else, he’s the one who attains fearlessness.
You want to be fearless or do you want to live in fear? You want to be fearless. Then reduce your dependencies, of all kinds. Don’t be dependent on the opinions of others. Don’t quickly ask for other’s guidance and other’s decisions. Try to reduce your financial dependency also. As you will start becoming more and more free, you’ll find that fear is reducing, that you now no longer have to seek permission. Now, you no longer have to act slavishly. Now you can be your own individual.
And remember, only when you’re not afraid of others, then you can be in a healthy relationship with others. Our relationship with others is always of fear. Because whenever there is dependency there can be no love. If you’re dependent on somebody you cannot love him. Love arises only in freedom.
If I am dependent on this, I’ll hold on to this, I’ll clutch this, even if this wants to fly away in its freedom I won’t allow it, because my life depends on it, how can I give it freedom.
So, there can be attachment, but no love. And that’s what we know. Relationships of attachments. Either attachments or aversion. But we do not know love. We do not know real friendship.
Real friendship, Love, or healthy relationship, all these are just different names for the same thing – an independent mind. A mind that lives, that abides in its own intelligence. Intelligence that does not come from outside. Intelligence that is your very basic nature. When you start living in that, your simple basic nature, then you need not be dependent upon somebody.
But our entire upbringing and education has been such that we’ve been taught to be dependent in the thousand ways. We’ve been told, for example, that we must top the class. Now remember, to top the class, you’ve to be dependent on others. How? Because not only your performance is important, it’s also important that the others perform badly than you. So, there is dependency. “I might do very well but there’s somebody else who’s done better still. I can’t top.”
“You’re good only when the entire society and the entire group of relatives say that you’re good.” So, your being good is now dependent on the opinion of so many people. There is no absolute standard, it’s all relative. If they say you’re good, you’re good. And if the neighbor comes and says, “Mr. Sharma. Your daughter is disappointing.” Then both Mr. Sharma and the daughter are gone. Their day is spoiled. The daughter does not know herself. And even Mr.Sharma does not know, neither the daughter, nor himself. Are you getting it?
Parents tell their kids, “We will be proud of you when the entire world claps for you.” Now what is this? Do you want to ruin your child’s life? “Don’t do this. What will they say?” Is that not a statement that you’ve often heard? “Duniya kya kahegi.” Now you’re being constantly conditioned to become dependent.
Entire system of education, examinations, certifications, you’re only as good as somebody else says you are. There is always an assessing body outside of you. The result has been that even in this young age we’ve lost the capacity for self assessment. We’ve lost the faculty that can look directly at itself. You know yourself only via somebody, only through somebody.
If you’re to ask yourself “Who am I? How am I? Where do I stand?”, you’ll find that you don’t have any answer. And that’s horrifying. And if you have any answer that answer would surely be an answer given by somebody else. It would have been supplied to you by somebody else. Even supplied is a very soft word, it would actually have been implanted in your mind by somebody else.
Now that is the game that is played in gatherings like this also, “I get up and ask a question, what will Amit say? What will Sanju say? What will Prakash say? What will Priya say?” And if they say, “Oh! what an idiot. What kind of stupid question is she asking.”, then I’m devastated. Is that not so? My heart starts beating faster. My face starts sweating. I find that my legs are shivering. Why? Because I have to just get up and ask a question.
Is that not a very sad state of affairs?
I’m such a slave, and slave to whom? Sanju, Prakash, Priya, Amit, Mohan. These have become my masters. And not only these, everybody is my master. I’m going through a marketplace and the entire market is my master. See what message has been fed into your mind by media, from corporations. They are constantly saying that you must appear smart. To whom? Others, right?
So, others will decide whether or not I’m smart. All the products that are being supplied to you by the market to consume, are the products to make you look good. To whom? Even what you call as ‘In my own eyes’, even if you say ‘In my own eyes’, your own eyes have been supplied to you by others. We’ve come to such a situation where we look at ourselves just as others would look at us.
You know you look at yourself in the mirror. What are you looking at? You are looking at yourself in the same way as others would look at you. You are trying to copy their way of looking so that you can do what they like. Are you getting it? Is that not so?
Very few people would dare to wear a dress that they feel comfortable in but most people dislike. How can I wear something that everybody dislikes, Even if it’s comfortable to me? What will I wear? I’ll wear something that’s trendy, that’s invoked, which is acceptable to everybody. Now whose body is it? Whose body is it? And why are you so worried about what others are saying about your body?
But imagine your horror, you’ll freak out. Somebody says “Chhee, what are you wearing!” and you’ll take a U-Turn, go back to your home and change and come.
The presence of others and the depth to which we are dependent on them is such an important topic that a young person like you must investigate. You see I had to tell you in the beginning of session that don’t be distracted, don’t whisper, don’t giggle, don’t look here and there. Now if you are looking sideways, who are you looking at? Others. Now would you look here and there, would you be distracted if there was nobody else in this room? Your distraction would be minimal. But the moment there is another sitting by us, he starts controlling us.
And sometimes he controls us under very harmless names. The name of a friend, even the name of family members. You see, you want to pay attention to what I’m saying, right? You understand that it’s important. And what’s your neighbor doing? Your neighbor is creating all kind of nonsense. And what happened to you? You fall prey to what he’s doing. Now has your neighbor not become your master?
What did you want to do? You wanted to sit and pay attention. What did you end up doing? You end up getting distracted. So, he has succeeded and you have failed. He’s become your master. That’s the effect that others have upon us. And by others I mean not only persons, but the entire effect the environment has upon you.
We have lost all mastery over ourselves. The world can make us do whatever it wants us to do. You go to a cinema hall to watch a movie, and what happens, when you are looking at the screen you lose all sense of yourself. Now your senses have become affixated to the screen. The director, the producer of the movie, they can get you into any emotion that they want you to. Right?
They want you to feel sad, they can make you feel sad. They would use that kind of music and that kind of scene. They want you to feel violent, they can make you feel violent. They want you to become sexually excited, they can succeed in that as well. The others are the master. You have nothing inside that says “I am. I am”. Not, “I am Shubhangi or Pawan or Rakesh,” just I AM. You have nothing inside you.
In a cinema hall you say, “Who am I? I am watcher.” Here you’re saying “Who am I? I’m audience.” In front of parents you say “Who am I? The son, or daughter.” In classroom you say “Who am I? I’m student.” The I AM is missing, The student becomes prominent, the son becomes prominent, the friend become prominent, the consumer becomes prominent. I am, just recedes.
And the result is fear and hesitation and dependency and all kinds of wrong turns in life. Decisions that are not your decisions. Careers that are not your careers. Lives that are not your lives. Marriages that are not your marriages. Characters, characters, characters. No real Self. Just characters.
You know the way out. The way out is to reduce your dependencies. See in what ways are you being made dependent. See how the environment is gaining control of you. See how you might be becoming a slave. And whenever you see that, just get up and declare I AM. I AM. Without your support I AM. Without being dependent on you I still AM. You take away everything that you’ve given me, I still AM. Right?
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: The deeper is your dependency, the deeper is your fear
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