✨ A special gift on the auspicious occasion of Sant Ravidas Jayanti ✨
Discipline and discipleship || Acharya Prashant (2017)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
10 min
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Acharya Prashant: To be honest, that which we call as discipline is only a conduct aiming at a certain result. Please correct me if you look at it otherwise.

Is not all discipline just conduct in search of a pre-desired result?

First of all you desire a result, and then you figure out what kind of action and conduct is required to reach that result, right?

That is why the discipline inside a submarine, is different from the discipline inside a tank. Right? The discipline that a wrestler requires is different from the discipline that a swimmer requires. And both have to follow acute regimens of discipline. Is that not so?

What comes first?

First comes the vision, the goal and then you say this kind of struggle is needed. You need to chisel your body, you need to cultivate your mind in this particular way. And then you follow that discipline.

All the expanse of discipline is built upon the foundation of the goal. The goal comes first.

Now who is setting the goal?

Is the goal firstly not coming from a mind that is afraid? A mind that is beset with desires, a mind that is confused. A mind that sees a lot of choices and is easily attracted to one choice after the other. And hence, leads to confusion and strife. From such a mind, firstly the goal is coming. And then once the goal has been set, you say, now I need to have such discipline in order to meet that goal.

Let me exemplify. I might be a very violent man. And my goal is to blast a building off. To learn how to do it, I have to live through stern discipline. I will have to build my body, I will have to learn several skills. I may have the discipline to learn a new language, if the building is in a foreign country. I will need to learn the skill of dodging, officials and police. I will need training in firearms. And all of that will require discipline. And all that discipline may train me to achieve success in my goal, but what is my goal? The goal is violence.

When you will look at me, just before I am going to set out for my mission. You will say, “Wow, what dedication this man has shown, what great discipline, he has submitted himself to.” My body will look good, like the body of a yogi. My mind would be focused on its goal. There would be no other thoughts. So there would be a certain calmness on my face. I would be self-assured that I am going to achieve my target, the building is going to disappear tomorrow. Hence I would be gently smiling. And if you look at me, you would say, “Wow! What a spiritually advanced soul. Look at his body, no trace of fat. Look at the face radiating with bliss. Look at the composure, such great certainty coming from God himself.” But what is the goal? The goal is violence.

Discipline and struggle are no virtues by themselves. No discipline has any virtue, if that discipline is serving a self-created goal.

Most marauding armies were sometimes the most disciplined armies. The most greedy of men are also sometimes the most disciplined of man, because greed requires that kind of discipline. You might have dedicated yourself to any discipline. You may have modeled your body and mind, according to the rigors of the discipline, but mind you, it is you who are doing it, with all that you stand for. This discipline will never take you beyond yourself.

Then there is another discipline, which is the right kind of discipline. The word ‘discipline’ is very closely related to ‘discipleship’. And ‘discipleship’ means, to follow, to be a student. Who does one follow? To whom does one let himself be a disciple? To that which is bigger than oneself, right?

If you follow someone smaller than yourself, then you are essentially following but yourself. Hence real discipline is about submitting yourself to that, which is far far bigger than you, That which really qualifies to be your guru, your teacher, That which you call by no names, and also by an infinite variety of names.

Real discipleship is surrender, and in that you do not follow any particular pattern of living.

You must have heard the name of Kabir. And he beautifully said, ‘ maala pherun, naa jap karun, muh se kahun naa raam, sumiran mera hari kare, main paaun visraam’. He says, “I have left behind all kinds of spiritual activities and disciplines. Neither do I recite the holy name, nor do I entertain myself with the beads. I have left all of them behind. I don’t even try to have the discipline of remembering God/ Truth. Now, God remembers me, I do not remember God.” This is real discipleship.

I have let go of everything that came from my sense of accomplishment and fear. Now I let myself be guided by existence itself. Now I am a real disciple. Now I listen, as one listens to the teacher. Now I see, as one looks at the teacher; with reverence, with love, with submission, with trust. And in looking, I learn. And in listening, I learn. And that learning is continuous. Every sound tells me something. Every experience, teaches me something beyond the experience.

That is real discipleship. That is discipline. And that discipline is not a part of life, that discipline is life itself.

Then you do not say, I am disciplined. Then you just say, I live. And that living itself is discipleship. If you are disciplined, then you are imposing a discipline upon yourself. And that is cruelty. Every child knows, that to be put under discipline, is something not likeable. Did you like discipline when you were subjected to it as a kid? It is that kid that you have to return to. The kid who does not like external discipline. When you do not remain subjugated under external discipline, then something from the heart rises. And that is a great discipline.

To the world, it may look like randomness and anarchy. To the world, it may look like chaos. But even if it is a chaos, it is a holy chaos. Even if it is random, that randomness has a great divinity in it. It has an order that is beyond the comprehension of human mind. It is not disorderly. Human eyes will call it disorderly, it is a great order that you do not need to even comprehend. You can just let it be. You can just let it play itself out. It is such a great order. But we like to know what is happening to us, right? We live in consciousness. We like to live in control. We like to be masters of our fate.

So you want to know in advance, “Please tell me what is happening to me.” Those who want to be assured of what is happening to them, will only get that which they can know of. And that is so very little, so meagre, so insufficient to quench your thirst.

Those who are prepared to trust and let go, those who are prepared to not to count what they are getting, get that which cannot be counted. If you keep counting what you are getting, you will only get that which is within counting. If you keep counting you will get only that which is numerical. I am asking you, is love numerical? Is joy quantifiable? But we like to count. We like to be assured.

Real discipleship lies in not knowing the target, and not knowing whether you are reaching the target. Your delight then lies, not in accomplishment, but in discipleship itself, “I love you so much that it is a pleasure beyond pleasures, just to follow you. I love you so much that I don’t care where your advice is taking me. I love you so much that even if your advice is bringing me to my ruin … what beautiful ruins. Can I be ruined twice? Can you give me another death please?”

This is real discipleship. This is not the discipline of waking up at 5 am and rushing off with your yoga mat, please. And kindly do not call that as discipline. That is the discipline of the tank and the submarine. There too, you have to stick to strict timelines, like in a japanese factory.


Where do you want to live?

In a tank? Yes, later on you will be decorated. Later on you will be presented as a role model probably. Later on you will be dead.


There is the dance of a circus artist and there is the dance of the butterfly. There might be some virtue in the dance of the circus artist, but I love the random dance of a butterfly.

When dance follows a particular pattern then it is not dancing, but slavery. If you cannot break free of the steps, then somebody has stepped on your freedom.

The butterfly does not know any instruction manual, and the butterfly knows no particular time to dance. But the butterfly dances, when the winds tell it to dance, when the flowers tell it to dance; that is discipleship. The flower says, “Dear butterfly would you dance?” And butterfly dances, that is discipleship. The clouds, they just sprinkle a few drops, and the butterfly says, “Aha! Time to dance, the lover is calling.” That is discipleship, discipline. When the lover calls, you dance.

It’s a discipline, not for the rigid ones. It is not for the stiff ones. It is not for those, whose hearts have been mortified. It is for those, who still have something tender within them. It is for those whose eyes can still cry. If you are one of those who have turned into a fossil by the attacks of time, if you are someone who has turned into an armor in a bid to defend himself, then the dance of the butterfly would not appeal to you, because the butterfly is very vulnerable. You can hold it, squeeze it anytime. And the butterfly never becomes anything. Nobody comes to offer prime-minister ship to a butterfly.

The dance of a butterfly does not take the butterfly anywhere. It rather comes from what the butterfly already is.

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