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False awakening is false peace is false service || Acharya Prashant (2019)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
10 min
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Questioner (Q): After an initial period of spiritual awakening and consequent exploration, I radically transformed many areas of my life, including leaving a secure European life to live and work in rural communities in India. The sense of calling, satisfaction and peace were very strong. But for the first time in my life, I felt my urgency of searching aborted. For around one year, due to both materialistic and spiritual reasons, I am questioning this calling, which was once so strong. I suffer from, firstly, the loss of sense of calling and secondly, confusion about what to do next, although a sense of service is still very strong. Can you please help me understand and manage this?

Acharya Prashant (AP): First of all, there is nothing called an episodic spiritual awakening. There is nothing called a ‘period of spiritual awakening’. All periods are associated only with the body, the soul does not have periods. People often come and start off this way, “There was a time when I was bathing in bliss. And now, it's all gone.” If it's gone, it's gone for good. If it's gone, be grateful, because it was never real at all. There is no need to cherish its memory as something authentic.

The real cannot go away. The ‘seen' cannot be unseen. The ‘understood' cannot be un-understood. Or, can it be? Yes, clouds float and dissolve into various forms; one separate from the other, one different from the other, and sometimes they all just fade away. The sky never undergoes a transformation. Day and night are episodes; skyness is not. Or is it? You may have a dust storm, you may have dense clouds, you may have the twilight sun, you may have the pitch-dark night—does any of this have any relation with skyness?

If something has come and gone, it only means that it is related to something ephemeral, something corporal, something worldly. It anyway did not deserve to be eternal, it did not deserve to live, so it went away. Why do we all die? Because we don't deserve to live. Only the Truth deserves to live; only the Truth is immortal. We are mortal, so we go away.

Now, certain actions, certain decisions happen in that fit of so-called spiritual awakening, and then they all don't quite add up. One remains lost. One says, “It appeared to come from a very, very pious source, yet, why is it turning into a source of discomfort, and defeat, and energyless-ness, and directionless-ness in my life? It is because, first of all, it didn't start rightly.

That which starts rightly can never stop. It can change courses, it can deviate, it can take about turns, it can rise, it can fall, but it can never end as such. Its ending, then, would be the ending of the one who started the movement. Its ending would come only when the one who started it all ends. If the movement is real, you cannot have a situation where the movement has stopped but the mover still exists. The mover will say, “I will live and die with the movement, because it is real. I am moving towards something that deserves to be attained. I'll live and die by it. The movement will stop only when I am no more there. I am no more there, both in the physical and the mental sense; more in the mental sense. When I am gone, only then the movement should stop. Otherwise, it should not.”

So, if such a thing has happened, then just go into it, and question the foundations. —Why did it have to happen at all in the first place? What concepts was the mind carrying? What was one thinking? What was it about? It's a good opportunity to question the very basics. If you question the very basics, you would be spared from repeating the mistakes, rather, you'd be spared from the mistaken entity itself. Rather, the mistaken entity would be spared of itself. Otherwise, there would be just the same old kind of repetition, from one mistake to the other, from one folly to the other, from one bout of suffering to the other. We don't want that.

We are not obliged to suffer. But if we don't honestly look into what we have been cherishing as noble, as foundational, as real, then—and it requires courage to question the very fundamentals of one's life. And it hurts because one's identity is very closely intertwined with what one has done—the decisions closest to one's heart, the things one has committed herself to, invested herself in, and the time lost, and the effort made. But it's never too late. Anyway, is there an option? The time that is gone cannot return, but we still have a life to live. We better correct the course. Is there something more you want added?

Q: It did feel like an expression of that which was fundamental at the time and it no longer does. But I think you are right, it's a chance for me to relook at the fundamentals of what really is. And with the knowledge that that which has passed was not the case, and going forward, something else is, and it's time to look at that. There was a lot of learning during this time, but it is incredibly painful to let go, because, at the time, it did feel like the fundamental expression of the spirituality that I had found.

AP: Yes, right. And, much more than any other area of human activity and labour, such kinds of delusions happen in the spiritual field. When you are in that phase, it appears the only thing real. The only thing real that ever could be. One feels like attesting, “I have got it! I have reached! This is that!” But we must realize that there is a particular gratification of the ego associated with such a conviction. After all, isn't That what everyone is looking for—the full stop, the final arrival, the ultimate attainment? And such a proclamation hugely pleases the ego. “The entire world of eight billion is looking for that ultimate fulfilment, and here am I. I got it! I nailed it.” So, it is so very pleasing, it is so absolutely gratifying that one does not want to question it too much. Because questioning carries with it the risk of falsification. You have just received a great diamond—big, heavy, lustrous—and you have been told that now you are the Queen of the Universe. You have it.

Q: It felt like that. I was told, but it also felt like that.

AP: It also felt like that, right? Because one wants to feel like that. And that's no crime because we are looking for fulfilment. And, if fulfilment is on offer, then you cannot blame somebody for feeling pleased. So, it happens, from some direction, here, there, some scripture, some experience, some guru. An assessment, a certification of arrival comes. One can either self-attest or it can come from some external source.

Going by the commandments of some book, you start feeling that, “I have had it"; or going by some of those so-called supernatural experiences, you start feeling, “I have arrived", or some spiritual authority comes and validates, “Ah! You are there girl. You are there." One does not have any incentive to be cynical about it. One does not want to be skeptical about the whole thing, because being skeptical spoils the fun. “I have just received the great diamond, and I am being implored to question its authenticity again and again.” How pleasing does that sound? I want to believe that the diamond is real. In some sense, I want to be deluded because the delusion is so pleasurable. The thing is to not repeat it.

Q: How would you guide me then to use all of this energy, passion that's still inside me in search of, you know, instead of this calling that I had before? Because I do still feel a calling towards service. I don't know the nature of it anymore, and then, I have all this fundamental questioning going on. But still, it's like a volcano inside me! What to do with this energy?

AP: This energy exists for a purpose. Obviously, it has to be directed towards service. But one has to ask these two questions, which are actually two ends of the same enquiry:

Who is serving? And who is the receiver of the service?

And, if you get one of the answers right, the other one is automatically set right. And when one is wrong, the other is bound to be wrong. When you are in a mood to serve, when you feel that inner urge to direct your energies towards service, then that is the question you should ask, “Who within me wants to serve and who would receive the service?” Who would receive the service? These two are one, remember. If the inner one is right, then the external one would also be right. You cannot really serve the right one from the wrong centre. At the same time, if the service is coming from the right centre, then the one served is bound to be right.

So, that question, you must ruthlessly keep asking yourself. “What within me wants to serve?” That energy is very useful. That energy needs to be put into the right cause. Otherwise, it will eat you from within. It will just consume you from within. Yes?

Man has been given both physical and psychic energy so that the energy finds an ultimate expression. That is called creativity. That is also called fulfilment. That is also called spiritual salvation. They are all names for the same thing in different contexts. But, before the energy becomes a mad rush, before you energetically rush into something, ask, “Who is going to benefit? And who within me wants the other to benefit?” Be very clear about this.

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