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Enlightenment is not an experience || (2013)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
17 min
45 reads

Questioner (Q): Acharya Ji, I have lived with people who have had an enlightenment experience, and instead of becoming less grasping, selfish, and egotistical, they have become more so, how is this possible?

Acharya Prashant (AP): This will always happen till the time you will consider enlightenment as an experience. Now let me ask this, “What does an experience require?” An experiencer. You cannot have an experience without being somebody and what can you always be? What can you ever be? Some rubbish. So, all experiences flow from?

Q: The one who is experiencing.

AP: And who is it? Who is experiencing it?

Q: A particular identity.

AP: A particular identity. So, how can an identity experience enlightenment? An identity will only experience what…

Enlightenment firstly is not an experience.

Q: It is not coming from the past.

AP: It cannot come from the past and that is why this question is a very revealing question. It very clearly says that those who have had this experience only become more and more egoistic and selfish and all that. Because now your ego has a wonderful tool. What does the ego say?

Q: I am enlightened.

AP: I am enlightened. And you listen to me as if 'enlightenment' is some label that, you know, you have on your chest and…

Q: "I am the rarest of the rare."

AP: "I am the rarest of the rare. See, I am constantly seeking. Now, what do I seek? Now, I seek followers. I seek listeners. Now, I seek more and more publicity. I seek approval from God himself."

That’s what the ego is - a constant seeking. Seeking is not a characteristic of virtue. It is the ego that always seeks. What he (referring to the questioner) is talking of; if I may just speculate, is a moment of attention.

But a moment of attention is something that we all, in any case, in our regular 24 hours, do come to have. But that is no big deal. That is the basic prerequisite for remaining sane. If even that does not happen, we will die. We will become mad. Just go bonkers.

That is available to all of us. There is nothing special, extraordinary about having what he is calling as that enlightenment experience. That all of us have. It comes and goes.

Even at this moment if you are listening attentively, you are having that experience. That is nothing more than that. That is why Zen calls it a very ordinary thing. That it does not happen with the loud sounds of trumpets and drums and all those things. They are very ordinary things. Listening to something, watching the sunset. Just sitting comfortably and the air is all right and there is no distraction. This is it. This is it.

Q: It is just knowing.

AP: It is not knowing of the type that you know of. Because for you, knowing is thinking. You know that you are knowing only when you are thinking. This knowing that happens in that moment of attention is not that common knowing.

When we claim that we are knowing, what are we actually doing? Thinking that we are knowing. And if we do not think, we find ourselves unable to claim that we know. What is beyond your thought, you will not even claim that you know. So, it is “not knowing” of that kind.

Again, something very-very ordinary, very simple. That enlightenment experience we all keep having. We all are Buddhas five or six times a day.

Q: So, does it mean that if you accept every situation, at every minute of it, then you will have no mental conflict?

AP: No, not really 'accept'. You are alive to it. You may even reject, but then you are alive to the rejection as well. If you have a mind and it’s a very trained mind, some people have minds who are conditioned to accept everything.

Now, what is the mind, if it’s an intelligent mind, what does it need to do? It needs to be alive to that fact that, "What am I? Who am I?"

Q: I am accepting everyone.

AP: I am acceptance. And this acceptance is not really my nature. Again that stepping into the danger zone but that acceptance is not really my nature, it is my training. I have been trained to be tolerant. It’s my conditioning.

Conversely, there may be someone, and there are people who are branded rebels, who reject everything. For them, it’s fashionable to just reject everything, anything that comes their way, especially young people. They will just reject.

Now, that does not mean that they are seekers or inquirers or whatsoever. They just have been conditioned to reject. One has been conditioned to accept, the other has been conditioned to reject.

Now, an intelligent mind, in the moment of intelligence will know that “who am I?” Right now I am acting like a rebel who is rejecting everything. That is sufficient. You will no longer be able to give energy to this fake rebellion if you know that you are just this…

It happens on its own. You don’t need to worry then. You just know. After that what happens, just happens. You don’t need to worry about the results.

Q: But even to say "I am not acceptance…"

AP: Don’t say that. It’s not at all needed. You say, “I am acceptance” and see how it feels. Wonderful!

Q: To understand that I am acceptance...

AP: …is sufficient. It’s sufficient.

Q: Because the other way around would again be ego.

AP: See, there are three steps in the process “Who am I”. It can be three steps.

One is - I say, “I am desire”, step 1. Step 2 - I am desire but my nature is not desire, I am not desire. Step 3 - I am the unthinkable Brahman.

Step 2 and 3 both are mere imaginations; redundant and dangerous steps. Step 1 is sufficient. Anybody who says, “Go right till step 3, where you discover your own pristine nature”, is just cock and bull story. Brahman. One is sufficient, not even two is needed.

Q: Sir, suppose I realize that I am desire then a certain reaction would occur whether I will go for it or not. If I go for it, then…

AP: No, no, no. A third and a fourth and a fifth thing may also happen. It is beyond your comprehension. What you are trying to do is, you are trying to outsmart intelligence itself. What you are trying to do is, you are trying to put a finger on what intelligence will do in that moment of realization.

Right now your ego is thinking that I am so smart that I can predict what intelligence will do. Do you see the game of the ego that, “If I come to know that I am desire then what will I do”? You are so smart that you can out-think intelligence.

Q: Sir, suppose my desire says, “I want to have this.” Then?

AP: Let it be real. What is your desire right now?

Q: Sir, suppose…

AP: No, don’t suppose. What is it? Know that. But then you are lying. If you really are desire, what did we say? We are nothing but desire. Then you cannot ask this question. On one hand, you are saying, “I want to have this.” On the other hand, you are asking me a question. This is not possible. When you are desire, you are just…?

Q: A desire.

AP: Then there is no questioner. So, you are still not being honest. The thing is just to stay with step one with deep honesty. What is it that I really am right now? What is it that I really, really am right now? That is sufficient.

Q: Possibly splitting between the thinking and the acting? Whether he wants to have it, but he would not be putting hand and acting.

AP: But even 'not to have it' is a thought. So, there is no split needed as such. He is just a thought. There is no split as such between thought and action. After all, action emanates from thought.

So, there is already a composite thought which says, “I want to have but cannot have.” So, in reality, what is he? He is just a fellow…

Q: Who is questioning?

AP: No, not really questioning. He is a fellow who is majboor (helpless). So, there is this thought which says, “Want it, but can’t get it.” And that is the honest answer.

Getting that honest answer will not be easy. But at the same time, it’s extremely simple.

Q: The answer is already there. The lag comes when you have to really embrace it; I am so rotten.

AP: It is there, right now, present. Extremely simple. It is so simple that you don’t want to stay with step one and move on to step two and step three. That is extreme deception. “Oh! Step one is so simple. Let’s move on to two and three!”

Step one has not been completed, what’s the point in hopping onto other steps? Stay with step one. And if the mind is extremely inquisitive, very-very peppy, tell it, “Alright, complete step one nicely, then we go to step two.” The funny part is if step one is actually completed nicely, there would be nobody to go to step two.

Q: There would be no need to go to step two.

AP: No, no, not no need, there would be nobody to step two. Finished! Just stay with step one: Who am I really? At this moment, who am I?

Try to understand something, whatever you can think of at this moment, that 'if I will do this then what will I do?' It will always come from your past. You want to generate some options, right? That, “suppose I do this then what will I do?" And you want to generate some options.

Can you really generate a new option?

All options that you generate will be the options that you have already seen in your past. You cannot think of something new. So, there is no point to pre-empt as to what will happen at that moment. Never do that and never entertain a question like this, that 'suppose I do this then there would be around two options.' How do you know? All options that you are talking of are readymade, prefabricated options coming from…?

Q: Past.

AP: You have twenty years of experience, and you are so vain that you are thinking that that moment will be a replica of the past.

Q: Sir, that means there is only thinking and no action.

AP: Try to demonstrate how there can be thinking but no action?

Q: Sir, like I desire this…

AP: But you wouldn't act?

Q: Means, I am the desire.

AP: Alright, desire something right now.

Desired? See, there was a great action. There was a great action right now. What was the action?

Q2: Desiring..? Thinking…?

AP: He is sitting. Don’t you see? He is 'sitting'; present continuous, running, walking. Why do you categorize only that as action? This is a great action that I am sitting. There will be one thought that will make you move up to that wall and then you will say, “I am walking.” There is another thought that is making you just keep sitting. So, there is another action. Even sitting is an action.

When you say, “There will be all thought but no action”, the question itself is invalid. You are acting all the time. There is no movement when there is no action. You may sit very still, even then there is an action. What is the action? Sitting calmly.

Just as you are thinking all the time, similarly you are acting all the time.

Q: So, for us action is just associated with movement?

AP: Physical movement. That (action) also includes lack of movement. Have you played that game in school, “who blinks first”? Who would win that? The one who didn’t seem to act. But there is great action in this inaction. It appears that you are not acting but you are making such a great effort to not to….?

Q2: To not to act.

AP: To not to act, to not to blink.

What may just appear like not acting is great action. Great action! Even in non-acting, the actor is present. Wherever the actor is present, action is happening.

The actor sometimes decides to show some movement. Sometimes, the actor decides not to show some movement.

An actor in a movie, who for two minutes has a scene in which he is just lying dead, not acting at all. Will he not charge that producer for those two minutes? But then going by your logic, you can say, “But there is no action. So, what should I pay you for?"

You are still acting. It’s your decision not to act, you are still acting. And that decision is thought-driven, ego-driven. Even to keep sitting here is such a great action. You have thought of a thousand things and then you are sitting here. It is great action.

Q: So, the actor and thought are synonymous.

AP: The actor is the thought. Both are fake. That is what you call as Kartā Bhāva , doership. Actor. I am the actor.

Q: Focus your attention to a point, you must not constantly change the focal point of your concentration. That is also an action?

AP: That is an action. That is very much an action.

Q: That you are focusing on Him…

AP: Yes, That is very much an action within the realm of mind. Concentration…

Q: So, when you are meditating, you are actually acting?

AP: Obviously, whenever you are meditating, that is as much of an action as walking, running, sleeping, eating, desiring. It would be a great illusion to think that meditation is not an action. Meditation is a great action, it is just that it is a very-very deceptive action. So, you were deluded into thinking that I am not acting. That is why you come across those bits, that the ones who meditate a lot actually become more and more egoistic.

Q: You mean breathing your life is action?

AP: It is an action but not a conscious action. You see, the same mind that brings thoughts, the same mind that is thoughts is also the one that is regulating the breath. It is just to say that when there are thoughts, it is a little more conscious thing. It can be observed. Breath operates even when you are sleeping. Even when let’s say you are in a coma. So, not that much but even that can be observed. In fact, observing the breath is again as you know a meditation technique. Because observing the breath is not very different from observing the thought.

So, just as observing thoughts is a meditation technique, similarly observing the breath is a meditation technique. Both are functions of the mind.

The expanse of the mind is great. To quickly start thinking that I have come beyond the mind is extremely foolish. Do not get into that trap. There is nothing but the mind. Any supernatural experiences, paranormal experiences, metaphysical experiences that you have are all still very much within the mind, within conditioning, within time.

Are you getting it?

You will never be able to go beyond your mind. Please, nobody. We are all entities within the mind. And do not quickly start claiming that I have had a para-mind experience. It only shows that the mind is so cunning…

Q: There is a conscious, subconscious, and unconscious. So, the conscious is just 25%, 50% is subconscious as psychology says. And the rest, which is unconscious, is 25%. So, even the unconscious thoughts like metaphysical and whatever, that could be a part of the unconscious mind which is not even conscious.

AP: And the knowledge that you have there, in what you are calling as “the unconscious mind”, is great. It’s a great depository of knowledge.

So, if you someday come across something and you are suddenly reminded of something else, kindly do not think that some metaphysical event is happening. It is just that you already had that knowledge but were not consciously aware of having that knowledge. That knowledge has suddenly been brought to the surface.

So, you are thinking that “Oh my God! This is coming from somewhere else”. It is not coming from somewhere else, it is coming from very much within the mind. It was always there but so deep that you were not aware. Just as you know, sometimes you have the stuff in your home but you forget that it is there. And then when you discover it then you say “Wow! Was it there? I never knew that it was there.”

Q: That's why they say that the mind is more powerful than the computer, it can control and retrieve anything at any point in time.

AP: Yes, and everything is mind. There is nothing but the mind. Beyond the mind whatever you have is just speculation. All your gods, this and that, KāraṇaŚarīra , Ātman , all that is mere speculation.

The only reality as far as we go is the mind. There is no other reality. And hence ‘who am I’ should be honestly answered only in terms of the mind. Simple, plain, direct, incisive honesty is sufficient.

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