India and Tolerance

Acharya Prashant
16 min readAug 15, 2020

The following excerpt is from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.

Words are words. Aren’t they? Words are words. What is India? Another word. Just like so many words that we utter every day morning till sleep, India is another word. The meaning is supplied to the word by the utterer of the word. Is it not so? What does food mean? Or love mean? Or the river Ganga mean? Or a person mean or a place mean? Nothing. The meaning is supplied to the word by the one who utters the word. Otherwise, a word is a word.

And what kind of meaning will I fill any word with? I am the one who fills meaning in a word. Don’t I? A wall means so many different things to different people. An animal or a mountain means entirely different things to different people. And even to the same person, it will mean differently at different times and in different situations. Wouldn’t it? So I am the one who supplies meaning to the word ’India’ as well.

What kind of meaning am I going to imbue this word with? What is the meaning that I impose upon anything in the world? What does that meaning depend on? I call something a car; I call something a tree; I call something a woman; I call something money; I call something God, and when I call these things with these names, I am the one who supplies meaning to them. What kind of meanings will I supply? How will I fill up these words? What does that filling up depend on?

Listener: Value system, mind.

Acharya Prashant: Yes. Well said! You said my value system; you said what’s going on in my mind. Could I just say, what I think of myself, what I take myself to be, depending on what I take myself to be, I paint the word with a thousand colors. The entire pallet is available. I pick up the colors according to who I think I am. If ten fellows look at a woman, they would look at her so differently depending on who they know themselves to be and this ‘knowing’ is what they ‘think’ themselves to be. Right?

You look at a child, you look at a temple or a mosque, and the meaning that you supplied to it depends on who you are, and that is one thing that must be remembered. When you are talking of India, when you are talking of tolerance, you are not talking of anything external; you are talking of yourself because to any word, you are the one — we are…