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Dogs and personal enlightenment || Acharya Prashant, in conversation (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
5 min
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Questioner1 (Q1): I remember you were surprising the dogs and the cows of the street; I know this is a very big cliché about India.

Questioner2 (Q2): Yes, but I guess it's always different to see things live, but yes, even there I mean, the dogs, one can feel sorry for them, no? Some are obviously probably living in very bad conditions and with very little nourishment. But still even there, that kind of shade of some spirit, the way they just, you know, coexist with all the commotion. There's something really, what's a good word? I don't know, something serene, you know, just to see how they are there.

Acharya Prashant: In some sense our dogs are like us. In many senses you know, unfed, undernourished, homeless, breeding all the time, generally harmless, very loyal, all over the place.

Q1: Notice another observation you had made was that, in public everything seems chaotic and dirty, but when you go inside a private space it's very clean and well cared.

Q2: Yes, and that's actually a real shame, because even here in Greater Noida, I mean, some of these places they would look really nice, if they were up kept or was the word?

AP: That, too, comes from distorted spirituality, like everything in India. You see, we have this rather unfortunate concept of ‘personal enlightenment’, in the Indian culture.

You do good things, you perform austerities, you do your sadhana and you will get enlightened, irrespective of how your surroundings are, how the world is, and you will attain enlightenment for yourself and it's a long-standing tradition and most people believe in it. You know that you can be personally liberated. Your family remaining where it is, the world remaining where it is, the society remaining how it is, you can still be personally liberated.

So, from that comes the concept of keeping your personal space clean, irrespective of how things are in the public domain. And that's something, again, I have been trying to challenge. Personal enlightenment is a myth. There is nothing called enlightenment in the personal sense. You have to take everybody along. Which means you have to clean up the public spaces as well. Do you see what is happening? In the spiritual sense, you want to clean up just your own mind. There has been this tradition, people go off to a cave in the Himalayas and they sit and meditate there and do things, and then it is anecdotal that they attain Mukti , Liberation.

They are not then caring about the rest of the world. Are they? And that example has flown down. ‘Care only for yourself, you don't need to care for everybody else.’ That's rather unfortunate because, Vedanta does not teach that. It is true that in the final sense only one exists, but to you, from the point where you are, the world does exist and you cannot be unmindful or disregarding of the world in pursuit of your individual benefit or liberation.

So, it is because of a misreading of spirituality, that this kind of culture has developed in the Indian mind, where we want to be very good and very nice with ourselves, with our few people, and we happily allow a lot of public spaces to exist, we allow large sections of society to remain mired in ignorance and we don't want to care for them, because we feel they are not us. There is a separation, and the separation is so much that I can take care of myself even if they remain the way they are. I have been trying to challenge that. If people remain the way they are, there is no hope for your salvation. Individual salvation does not exist. Sadhana can never be personal.

Just as every single breath of you connects you to the world and every single action of yours is in a worldly backdrop. Similarly, even liberation is something in the context of the world. You cannot leave the world to its place and its fate, and try to take off to a distant sky in a personal rocket, right? That's not something that can happen. In fact, when you talk of Liberation, Liberation cannot be personal because Liberation is liberation from the personal . So, how can there be a personal kind of Liberation, if one has to keep clean one will have to ensure that, even the surroundings, at least even the surroundings are clean. Otherwise, what is cleanliness?

You see, the ‘self’ is such an artist. I’m talking of the false self. A con artist. It turns even enlightenment into something selfish. ‘I want the chocolate for myself, I want that cute dress for myself, I want that fabled enlightenment for myself.’ What's really the difference please, if you want it just for yourself? How are you different from that kid trying to hide the apple from his sister?

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