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Are earthly pleasures a hindrance to spiritual growth? || Acharya Prashant (2019)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
7 min
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Questioner (Q): On one hand, I want to spiritually grow towards enlightenment, but at the same time, some side of me wants to have earthly freedom, experiences, like traveling. Even though I know that those things won’t bring me True Joy.

Are earthly pleasures a hindrance to spiritual growth?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Isa (the questioner), there is no dissonance between Spiritual Joy and earthly living. The one who is not spiritually developed may travel to all corners of the Earth but would still remain joyless. So what is the point in traveling?

There is the wandering monk; look at his Joy. There is the Fakir (Monk) who travels from place to place, village to village, sometimes from country to country. Traditionally, in India, Sadhus (Monk) would forbid themselves from staying too long at any one place. They would just keep traveling.

Buddha and Mahavir, the great ascetics, they traveled all their life. Even Guru Nanak made voyages, long-distance travels – to the east, to the south, to the west. That’s one kind of traveling – in which you are already full of Joy, and you are traveling to disseminate that Joy. You are traveling so that even others may have that Joy.

And then, there is the traveling tourist; the average traveler. What does travel give him? Some consolation, some very feeble support to enable him to carry on his otherwise wretched life. Once a year, twice a year, he saves money to travel, and not much comes out of that travel because he is not internally complete.

Even the Earth discloses its real treasures only to the spiritually accomplished ones. To the spiritually accomplished one, the earthly living itself is heavenly. And that would also tell you what is ‘hell’. The one who is not spiritually accomplished, to him, the earth itself is ‘hell’.

So it is not as if there are two different worlds, offering two different kinds of Joy. That is the mental model you are coming from. You are telling me, “There is the earthly joy, which is an inferior kind of joy, but still quite alluring. And then, there is a metaphysical, transcendental Joy, spiritual Joy. And the spiritual Joy is quite attractive, but it seems to come at the cost of earthly joy.

No. Wrong. That’s where you are mistaken.

The Spiritual Joy does not come at the cost of earthly joy. In fact, there is nothing called ‘Spiritual Joy’. All joy is earthly because all joy is to the one, who is the product of the Earth. No Man, no Joy.

If there is no Isa (the questioner), who is there to be joyful? And Isa, who is she? Someone who has arisen from the Earth. Who are you? You are the soil, you are the water, you are the air, you are the sunlight. Without these, would there be any human being?

So, the one who is Joyful is always an earthly one.

Therefore, there is no distance or distinction between these two kinds of Joy. In fact, if you create two dimensions of joys, then you do not know either of these dimensions, any of these dimensions.

It is a very common misconception, and we all need to get rid of it.

We feel that to have Spiritual Joy, we have to give up earthly pleasures. And such stories have come to us from various sources. They continue to keep coming to us. No, not at all true.

Spirituality is Wisdom. Spirituality is deep Intelligence. Spirituality is to give up the inferior, in the favor of the superior.

That which you call as ‘earthly pleasure’, definitely has something which is worth rejecting, worth dropping.

Therefore, Spirituality is to drop incomplete, costly, ephemeral pleasures, in favor of an ending pleasure called ‘Joy’.

Are you getting it?

You could even say that;

Spirituality is the art of absolute hedonism.

The common man, he satisfies himself with bits and pieces; some crumbs here, some crumbs there, of a little bit of happiness, of a little bit of pleasure.

The monk, the spiritual seeker, he says, “Nothing doing. Not only I want happiness. I want happiness Absolute.” He is ambitious. He is very very greedy, you know. Because he is very very greedy, so he tells you to shun normal greed. Because he is absolutely greedy, so he tells you, “Do not be a little bit greedy.”

You think that he is against greed. He is not against greed, he is against everything that is incomplete. So he says, “If you have to be greedy, you must be not incompletely greedy, but absolutely greedy.”

Spirituality is Absolute greed. Spirituality says, “I do not want anything small. I want now, only the Infinite, the Ultimate.”

See what dimension of greed it is. Similarly, happiness and pleasure. A common man says, “Give me happiness. One hour a day please.” What does the spiritual one say? “I want the total, unending, undiminishing, eternal happiness.” And where does he want it? In some other world, some other planet, some other galaxy? Where exactly does the spiritual seeker want that?

* * Q: On this Earth.

AP: On this Earth. When does he want it – after seven hundred years, after death, in seventh life, in the eighteenth life? When exactly does he want it?

Q: Now.

AP: After fifty years, when he turns seventy-five and enters the last ashram of his life? Is that when he wants it?

Q: No. Now.

AP: If Joy is absolute, would you want to postpone it? It would be so very alluring that you won’t be able to postpone it. You would want it right now.

That’s Spirituality – to have the highest happiness, and have it right now, here. The highest, right now, right here.

Getting it?

Now do you want the earthly things? Are they still attractive?

If the earthly things are attractive, then that should tell you, that you have a faculty for attraction. If even a little attracts you, it should tell you that you know how to get attracted. And if you know how to get attracted, then how would you feel in front of the Immense?

I repeat; If even the little attracts you so much, what would be your condition in front of the Immense?

You would go bonkers.

That’s how the spiritual mind wants to live – in an absolute craziness.

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