Acharya Prashant: Self-love, and difference between self and the Self

Acharya Prashant: What is self? Me, I.

This thing that you refer to as the self, is not one thing. Understand this.

Let’s for the purpose of understanding, call it, self with a small ‘s’ and Self with a capital ‘S’. Understand this!

This is what you think you are (pointing at the ‘self’). This is what you are (pointing at the ‘Self’). We operate incessantly with this only (‘s’). With our thoughts. And here, there is no possibility of any Love. Just ruled out.

So, when you say self-love, it’s actually a redundant term. If you are dealing with yourself in this (‘s’) domain, Love is anyway not possible and this (in the domain of ‘Self’) is nothing but pure Love. Not the kind of Love that you know of while sitting here. This is an unknown thing to you, a totally unseen beast, of which you have no idea presently.

Here, nothing called self-love can be possible (in the domain of ‘self’). Here, only tension, frustration, attachment, obsessions are there. It’s another thing that you name them Love. You can call your pre-occupations as Love, you can call all your desires as Love, you can call your attachments as Love. You can call all your dependencies as Love, you can call all your possessiveness as Love. This all, what you call love is only going to give you trouble. It would be narrow, it would be jealousy-ridden, it would be insecure. And it would be of no avail at all. Are you understanding this?

But, unfortunately, this is the Love that we know of. And this operates only here (in the domain of ‘self’). What is this self that you know of?

Listeners: With a small ‘s’

AP: This is that self in which if I ask you now, that write ten statements starting with ‘I am’ which all end in some kind of noun, you will easily write them. What would you write?

You would write, “I am a daughter”, “I am a son”, “I am a student”, “I am an Engineer”, “I am an aspiring professional”, “I am an Indian”, “I am a Hindu or a Muslim”. “I am a North Indian”, “I am a male”, “I am a female”. “I am smart”, “I am intelligent”, right?

“I am thin”, “I am long”, “I am fat”, “I am suave”, all such things? Correct?

All these self-concepts, belong to this (indicating at ‘self’). Because this is what you think you are! Are we together till this point?

Whatever you think you are, is one identity that you are carrying.

And that identity can have no possibility of any Love.

So, forget it that there can be any ‘self- love’!

No self-love is possible.

‘Self -love’ is an oxymoron.

Do you understand an oxymoron? A self-contradictory phrase, whose two portions contradict each other. In this (‘self’) there can be no love. Self-love is not possible here. That is the reason why, even as young men or women, our lives are riddled with tension and frustration. That is the reason we dislike ourselves so much.

Do you see, why there is always within us, a need to attain more and more? Because we are not satisfied with what we are. A person who really loves himself would say, I am sufficient. Do I need to become somebody else, in order to feel satisfied? No. Is that a characteristic of self-love? To be ambitious?

Can a Self-loving person be ambitious? Aren’t we ambitious?

Can a Self-loving person be guilty? If I Love myself, can I feel guilty about myself? But don’t we often feel guilty about ourselves?

And all that happens, only because we really do not know what this “I” is all about! We think, this “I” is just all our identities.

This can be a very very long discussion, but for your understanding, as a beginner, take it, relating this to this – In awareness, note it down, understand this. In awareness, this (‘self’) cannot thrive. This is the mark of ‘littleness.’ So, your little man is here (in the domain of ‘self’). You remember a few pictures that were in the ‘little man’ activity? You remember those pictures? What were those pictures? You find a man who is caged. You see a man there, who is caged, who is afraid, who values security more than freedom, under the weight of the family and many other things.

L: He had a collar.

AP: He had a collar? That dog collar!

This is where the littleness arises (in the domain of ‘self’). No genetic problem has happened with the little man. Nothing wrong has happened with the ‘little man’. He is not a separate breed. He is not a different species at all. The only problem that has happened to him is, that he has started identifying himself with incorrect things. He has attached his identity to those things that actually he is not.

Like, I am a son, I am an employee, I am a professional, I am a student, I am an Indian. He has started believing himself to be all this. And believing all this has become his littleness.

Greatness lies here (in the domain of (‘Self’)), the one who dissociates himself from all these identities. And again,

The Great man is not a Great man.

That Great man has to be Great, every passing moment inattention.

Otherwise, it is very easy, to get identified with all these.

The Great man, retains his understanding of himself, as somebody who is different from his concepts.

He does not get identified with his thoughts.

Is this, somewhat clear? I am not expecting great illumination instantly. But is this somewhat clear? Somewhat clear?

(Listeners nod in a yes)

L: Acharya ji, what you are saying is about Saints. Those who do not get stuck in the mundane.

AP: When you ask me this question, ‘you’ are the Great man. Is he a saint? You don’t look like one!

L: No, but you said, you would attach yourself to things like, you are a daughter.

AP: You know, he could have said, I am a respectable student, and he doesn’t know me. As he stood up to ask this question, I could have rubbished him? Do you see? Do you see this?

He detached himself from his identity as a respectable friend and a respectable student. He put it to stay. He could have remained confined in his identity. As many of you did.

L: And one more thing is that unless there is self-love and we are satisfied, we don’t have any ambitions, but don’t you think at some point in time, in order to grow, we should have some ambitions in us?

AP: What do you mean by growth? Is growth something that happens out of ambition?Will that be growth?

A cancerous cell is very very ambitious! It multiplies like hell.

That’s ambition.

A normal healthy cell, does not grow out of ambition.

It just grows.

Just grows.

And it not only grows, it also knows a suitable time to die down.

Growth is your very nature. It happens spontaneously out of understanding. It does not require ambition.

You don’t need to be ambitious in order to grow.

You see, to solve a question correctly, to solve a question correctly, what do you need? Understanding or ambition?

L: Understanding.

AP: Do you understand what I am saying?

To solve a question correctly, you do not need ambition. You need ambition, to predict the question paper. You need ambition, to device shortcuts. Ambition will make you do a thousand things, as a substitute of understanding. Don’t you know of all that?

My ambition is that I should get 80% marks. If the ambition is of marks, then why will I try to understand the subject? What if I can get copy of the question paper? The 80% will be more easily achieved. Am I right or not?

L: It can be simultaneous also, that we are understanding and we setting our ambition.

AP: Yes, that’s what. It ‘is’ simultaneous.

If you have understood it, won’t marks automatically result from there?

L: Still, setting an ambition is not a bad thing.

AP: Does understanding come out of ambition?

L: No.

AP: If understanding is coming out of ambition, please try to see what will happen?

You are saying that it is my ambition to get good marks, that is the reason I want to study. That’s the scenario that you are talking of. Let’s take that scenario. What are you then preparing for?

You are preparing for the day when the results will be declared and you will come to know that you have 80% marks, right? Because that is your ambition! That 80% is your ambition, right? You are preparing for that day? Am I right about that? You went to your study table because you wanted the result of 80%. So, what are you waiting for? The day when results are out! The result will come out once a year. What about the remaining 364 days? That one day, you may feel a little satisfied. What about the remaining 364 days? Will you be satisfied, will you be able to Love yourself? And we all know that results sometimes go totally!

There are two employees. One works for money. And the other one works because working is his nature and he loves the work. He cannot do anything except than working. The thing that he is doing, he anyway wants to do. He is absolutely in love with what he is doing. And there is one who is working for money. He is waiting for the 30th of each month when he gets his paycheck. The day he gets his paycheck, that moment, he feels very relieved. What about the other 29 days, how do you think he lives?

L: Like a sluggard.

AP: Like a sluggard, and in a perpetual sense of wait. Waiting, how many days to go when he gets his salary? Now, how many days left? Now, only two days left. How will they pass? And now, think of the other one, who works for the sake of him.

L: Acharya Ji, both of them do work for some reason nevertheless!

AP: You see, you say, that I work for something, only when there is a difference between ‘the work’ and ‘something’. When I say I am working for something, only when the work is right now, and the result is after some time, then I can say, that I am working for that event. What if, the working itself is the event?

Please understand this. Suppose, you are playing. Do you say that I am playing for enjoyment? Is the playing itself not enjoyment? Do you get enjoyment after one hour of playing? You are enjoying in the moment of playing itself! You don’t play for enjoyment, playing itself is enjoyment. There is no difference between this and this (work and its result). Playing and enjoyment are one. At the same moment. Right there. So, here,

There is no target, no ambition.

This is Self-love.

This happens inattention.



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

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Self-love, and difference between self and the Self


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