What is self-awareness? || Acharya Prashant:

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Question: Acharya Ji, what does it mean to be ‘self-aware?’

Acharya Prashant: What does it mean to be self-aware? For this, we have to go first into ‘self-knowledge.’ Knowledge of the ‘self’ and awareness of the ‘self.’ We will have to take these two together. What is ‘self?’ Simple, the ‘self’ that which we call as ‘me,’ ‘I.’

What’s your name?

Listener: Acharya Ji, Dev.

AP: So, for Dev, ‘self’ is Dev, right? Self-knowledge would simply mean, “knowing that what this Dev thing is all about.” A very basic start. What is this creature called ‘Dev?’ Self-knowledge means, “Dev is a body and Dev is a mind. Dev acts and Dev thinks. The body acts and the mind thinks.”


Self-knowledge would mean, being conscious of the actions of the body and the thoughts of the mind.

Knowing what do I do and what do I think.

So, for example, Dev enters this hall and where does Dev intuitively go and sit. Dev chooses the second row from the back, that’s an action. The one who has no ‘self-knowledge’ will ignore this action. But the man who wants ‘self-knowledge’ and hence ‘self-awareness’ will not ignore this action. He will say why did I do that? When I entered this hall why did I quickly occupy all the back seats? Why did we do that? That is about watching an action. Why am I doing this and why comes later. First of all, I must be conscious that I am doing this. We are not conscious. Did you notice, you entered this hall and very instinctively you just started sitting there, not for a second did you pause and ask yourself what are we doing?

We are just conditioned to act like machines and machines have no ‘self-knowledge.’ They don’t know what they are doing. Similarly, we didn’t know what we are doing. What happens to me in the presence of others? How do I relate to others? What happens when somebody tells me that I am looking dumb and idiot? What happens to me when somebody tells me that I’m looking handsome and smart? This is being aware of my thoughts. What am I thinking of all the time? What thoughts occupy my mind?

Are you getting it?

All this is ‘Self-knowledge.’

Watching your actions and watching your thoughts.

Even as I’m sitting here, am I thinking of something? And why am I always thinking of something? Why can’t I be thoughtless as I sit here? Why can’t I just listen? Why my mind still wandering around in thoughts? This is ‘self-knowledge.’ As you looked at the creature called Dev, his thoughts and actions, you start discovering that whatever he acts, whichever way he acts and whichever thoughts he thinks, are all influenced thoughts and hence influenced ‘actions.’

When Dev is able to see that it is under the influence of the crowd that he wants to sit on the back seats, then Dev says, Oh! then that is not Dev, then the fellow who sits on the back seat is not Dev at all. He is just acting under the influence of others it’s not Dev’s own choice. So, the man sitting there is not Dev. He is just a puppet in the hands of his batchmates. What his batchmates do? He also does like a puppet. This happens with all the action that you see and all the thoughts that you watch. You realize that I started out by trying to watch Dev actions and thoughts. But the more I watch Dev actions and thoughts, I realize that they are not at all Dev actions and thoughts. Do you see what is happening?

I started out to watch my actions and thoughts but the more I watch my actions and thoughts, the more I see that they are not at all mine. So,

‘Self-knowledge’ is a process of reduction.

It’s a process of inhalation. It is also called Neti-Neti.

The more you see, the more you realize it’s falseness,

right? That is what happens in ‘self-knowledge.’ Self-knowledge doesn’t mean that you know more about yourself.

Self-knowledge means that the more you know ‘yourself,’ the less you see that what you call yourself is ‘your’ ‘self.’

It is not your self at all. It is a puppet, a machine.

Ultimately when all, that you are identified with, all that you are calling, all that you have been calling yourself  reduces… reduces… reduces… and comes to a not then that clean emptiness that remains is called ‘self-awareness.’ When all the rubbish has been done away with then what remains is called ‘self-awareness.’

Self-awareness is the vast empty sky that remains after all the dust, dirt, haziness and clouds have been removed.

Self-awareness is not the consciousness of some object. It is just pure openness, emptiness. If you say I’m a very self-aware man, you will not be able to describe what you are aware of. Yes, in ‘self-knowledge,’ you will describe because ‘self-knowledge’ is an object. What is the object? My own thoughts, my own actions. I’m aware of my thoughts I’m aware of my actions that is ‘self-knowledge’ but ‘self-knowledge’ must really lead to knowing that what I call as my actions are not at all my actions. And what I call my thoughts, my desire, my goals are not at all my thoughts, my desire, my goals.

When all the accumulated garbage is cleared away then the open sky that remains is ‘self-awareness’ and ‘self-awareness’ because it is an open sky, it is a freedom. Unhindered, unlimited freedom, alright?


Before you ask for ‘self-awareness,’ ask for ‘self-knowledge.’ ‘Self-knowledge’ is also called as ‘self-consciousness.’

Start off by being conscious of what you are doing. Most of us live in such sleeping ways, we do not know what we are doing and why we are doing? Now, somebody is smiling with his hand on his face, Is he really aware of what he is doing? Could he have done this in absence of that fellow? So, it is just an influence. Were it just me and my friend in the room, he wouldn’t be doing what he doing right now? But he is not realizing that he is just a machine under the influence of its master. It’s a mutual machine-master relationship.

That is what is an absence of ‘Self-consciousness.’

We do not know what we are doing.

Acting mechanically with no realization.

You see some of you speak and why do you speak because there are others. And some of you fail to speak, you are nervous. Why do you fail to speak because there are others? Now, is there anything that you do out of your own intelligence? No. This is ‘self-knowledge.’ Whatever I’m doing is just a function of my surrounding. As my surroundings are, so do I act. Somebody wants me to think me in a particular way and he is able to influence me. Somebody wants me to act in a particular way and he is able to get me to act that way. Hence, ‘self-knowledge’ gives you that power to be free. Then you will no more act like that coy kid who hides his face turns around and smiles. That’s what class fifth kids do, right? Not graduate students.

Self-knowledge is empowerment, great empowerment.


Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: What is self-awareness? The transcription has been edited for clarity.

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