Questioner (Q): The question that I have for today from the reading is that it appears when one is trying to escape loneliness, reading from some spiritual books, or practicing some meditational techniques, it is also not considered the right thing to do. Could you shed some light on it?
Acharya Prashant (AP): When the intention is to somehow escape from loneliness rather than go to the root of loneliness, rather than come face-to-face with loneliness, anything that one does is just not honest. Honesty doesn't lie in turning one's face away from the facts of one's life. That is obvious. And suppose the fact of one's life is loneliness. In that case, one has to figure out what loneliness is.
One has to look squarely into the eyes of loneliness. One has to strike a conversation. Instead, if one finds an alternative, then the alternative would remain a valueless one even if it is a so-called holy alternative. Please remember that real holiness lies only in basic honesty. So if from a center of dishonesty, one is turning towards holy books, then the books remain holy; however, one's approach and attitude to the books don't remain holy.
How will it benefit you if you touch a holy book in an unholy way? When you escape from your loneliness instead of confronting and digging deep into it, coming to the truth of it, then the approach itself is unholy. An unholy approach turns even a holy book useless. Remember Shakespeare? —“the devil can cite scripture for purpose.” (quoting from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice).
Now the devil can not really turn the scripture unholy. But the purpose for which the devil would touch the scripture would not be pious. Kindly don't try to categorize activities per se into holy or unholy. We have a strong tendency to do that because that is so easy and doesn't require any inner work or discrimination. So we find a lazy categorization very easy and compelling.
We want to say. What are holy deeds? Reading this, this! (gesturing with his hands), going to a temple, doing such an act, performing charity, helping somebody, and meditating. So this is the list of holy acts. Done, finished. What are unholy acts? Another list of ten things that you can comfortably tag as unholy.
It is not the action itself or the object that is holy or unholy. It is the way you use it. It is the purpose for which you utilize it.
There might be a greatly holy place, a place of worship. But some debauched minds may use that place to commit a rape or a murder. The place still remains holy but look at the fallen mind. He had committed the foulest of action in the highest of places. That's what man is capable of.
Man can use even God for his nefarious intentions. I want to exploit others. I will exploit others in the name of God. Has that not always happened the world over? Closer still, has that not happened for long in India? So God remains a God. But man is such a rascal he can appropriate even God for his unholy deeds.
Travelling can be the holiest of actions if the actor is right. Do not try to brand or categorize the actions. Look at the actor. Saying yes might be the holiest deed ever performed; saying no might be the holiest deed ever done; going towards the left might be the most pious activity; going towards the right might be the most pious activity; depends on the actor. It depends on what you are doing there. Saying 'A' can be the holiest of actions; saying 'A' can be the vilest of deeds. Nothing is right or wrong, holy or unholy, good or bad, virtuous or demeaning by itself. It all depends on the actor behind the actions.
Unfortunately, the moment you label certain actions as high holy or godly, the actor, the vile actor, finds a safe refuge in those actions. The vile actor finds a safe refuge in virtuous action. The action is virtuous, the actor is vile, and that has been the story of mankind, which has been man's relationship with religion. Religion is about taking a man to the highest point possible, and man has misused religion in the meanest way possible.
What's worse, when the results of man's dark relationship with religion show up as harmful, man blames religion.
Man does not say he has misused religion. The man says religion in itself is unnecessary and evil. Give the best of things to the worst of persons, and you know the results in advance.
If you meet satan and gift him the Geeta or the Bible, then it is not that satan will be transformed. Rather, it is quite likely that satan would add another arrow to his quiver. Now, he has another tool in his arsenal called Geeta or Bible.
Don't be so concerned with only the actions. I am not asking you to ignore the actions. I am saying don't be just concerned with the superficial and apparent aspects of actions. When you look at actions, probe deep into them so that you may discover the actor. It is the actor who suffers. Therefore, it is the discovery of the actor that would lead to liberation from suffering. Does the action suffer, or is it the actor who receives suffering? It is the actor.
So while looking at actions is important, looking only at actions would not yield you any benefits.
Look at actions and then dig deep into them till you reach the actor. Come face-to-face with the actor. That's where liberation lies. That's where the truth lies.
Q: Whenever I’m working from home, and have nothing to do, I feel alone. My usual response is to watch some series, and if I am in a good mood, your videos or books. And when I get frustrated of watching them, because of not living up to them, I switch to movies.
But that too vengefully brings frustration, and then I switch off everything, like not playing with my pet. Then there is sadness, tears, miserable feeling, but I can not be with that for long. I immediately think of any substitutes like alcohol, smoking, or something. I try to fight it, but it does not stick for so long, maybe 15 minutes, half an hour. After that, I become a loser and give up. How to have this courage and conviction?
AP: Learn to lose, there is no option. There are certain battles that you are certainly avoiding. No point avoiding them. You will have to enter those battles even if you get badly beaten.
Q: Keep going to keep suffering?
AP: You will have to answer this for yourself. There is surely something that demands and deserves to be done, but you aren't paying the thing its due. There is some worthy battle that deserves to be fought. You are not accepting the challenge. Because you are not accepting the challenge, there is an intrinsic misery in life. Self-respect is missing. One is not really able to admire oneself. That's not at all a nice place to be in.
Fight the right battle. Pick up the right project, the right challenge, and lose it, and lose in it if that's what to be. But you will find that that kind of defeat will be far more beneficial to you, compared to the kind of gains that you might be enjoying in your seemingly secure and ordered life. Let there be a little chaos and destruction. Get beaten up. Bleed a little. All that will happen externally. You will appear like a loser. Certainly to the others and occasionally even to yourself, it would appear like a bad deal.
Still, the benefits of this approach will become evident when you look at your inner health. You will find that inwardly the climate has improved a lot. One must set the highest standards for oneself. Set high standards and live up to them. And living up to them, if you fail many times or pay a high price, be prepared.
You are not someone I need to counsel on what it means to set high standards. You already know what is meant by highness. You know what high in the real sense pertains to. Fight a high battle. Be your own hero. Heroes don't have to cry in loneliness on their pillows. That's one nice thing about being a hero, you can sleep peacefully. You don't have to wet the pillow. That doesn't mean that you have to be one of the silver screen heroes.
Remember the high standards I am talking of. Set those high standards wisely with love and understanding. And then do what it takes to meet them.