Questioner (Q): In the spiritual journey, it is very, very difficult to find companionship, community, or like-minded people—people you can talk to about your experiences on this journey. So, it becomes a very lonely conquest. It is obviously a very lonely conquest because eventually it is a conquest of the self, but I feel that in the beginning some kind of a community is very important. Eventually, your friends actually also start becoming fewer; they actually don’t understand the things that you are saying. So, if you could talk a little bit about that, I would appreciate it.
Acharya Prashant (AP): Yes, yes. It’s a lonely conquest, and if you have to carry on the conquest then you have to conquer loneliness itself. It’s not as if it’s a lonely conquest; loneliness is to be conquested, because if the feeling of loneliness persists, then it will drive you towards the company of undeserving people. And that is exactly opposite to the purpose of spirituality.
When we say the mind is polluted, corrupted, conditioned, and that’s why we need to be spiritual, to come to the pure mind, it becomes pertinent to ask: what corrupted the mind in the first place? The fundamental thing is of course the physical body that took birth, but then after that it is the companionship of others that corrupted us is it not? It is the others—‘others’ meaning the entire world, the world is the other—it is the others who corrupted us.
So, the problem itself is the others. The others, the otherness that we are carrying within, that itself is the problem. Now, if that otherness is the problem and to solve the problem we still depend on others, then that hardly solves the problem; in fact, we are just then continuing the problem in another name.
Therefore, I think one has to be cautious when it comes to companionship in the spiritual journey. To begin with, yes, probably you require a mate or two because there would be new things, new experiences, and one requires both affirmation and support. So, maybe yes, you require a person or two around you.
But you know what happens? As you move on, you slowly find that the very presence of a support group is the hindrance in the movement, so it goes on dropping. That, however, does not mean that one keeps on becoming more and more of a loner; what that means is that the compulsive need for companionship is no more. In fact, now you are more open to companionship because now your relationship with others is not need-based.
When we say that we need someone around us, then it’s a thing of a need, right? The motive is selfish. When that selfish motive is no more, then you can freely and selflessly connect to the other, and that allows you probably to connect with a vast number of people in a very, very healthy way.
So, it’s not as if the spiritual person becomes a loner; the spiritual person is an outrightly community person. Think of a rishi who is teaching his students and also meeting people who come to visit him; or think of a Buddha who has established an entire organization, the sangha, and think of the number of people who are associated with the sangha and the entire movement that is taking place, thousands of monks, and those monks have all to be managed, and they are all corresponding with Buddha, and then there are the general people who are coming to meet him and seek guidance. So, you are living in company and community all the time in a very, very healthy way as a spiritual person.
So, while it is alright to probably have one or two good friends with whom you share these things, progressively, as the self changes, so does the need for company or community, and so does the nature of relationships. When we say vasudhāiva kuṭumbakam (the earth is one family) and such things, ultimately that is not valid for the common worldly man. The common worldly man does not have the vasudhā as his kuṭumb ; vasudhā is the earth, kuṭumb is the family. The common man has a very small and limited family. The entire vasudhā is kuṭumb only for the spiritual person; his family is large, very large. It’s a very common refrain against the spiritual pursuit, you know, that if you go the spiritual way, then you’ll be left totally lonely.
Q: I believe that comes because, like you said, as the self changes, the nature of the relationships also change. Personally I feel that the love I experience when I am a little bit more aware is very different from the love that I experienced before that. The love, the aware love does not need me to bind another in a relationship or to have expectations; it flows very freely. And a lot of times it’s very difficult to communicate that kind of love towards the other, and even more difficult to make the other person understand why the confines of a normal relationship cannot encapsulate this love. I cannot give you a label of a friend, a boyfriend, a husband, a mother, or father because I am not feeling that towards you; that love is completely different.
AP: Wonderful. And you know, that’s the dilemma, the burden, or the pain that the spiritual person has to willingly bear, because as you advance in your spiritual dimension, you will find that the ones you love, the ones you relate to, they have to be taken along. At least that would be the intention from your side; that might not be the intention from their side. You’ll want that because now you know that this journey is something really important, worthy; you want others, too, to undertake this journey. But as you will relate to them with this objective, you will meet a lot of resistance, a lot of misunderstanding; a lot of things will happen, and those things have to be taken in your stride.
So, it’s quite a colorful journey, you know. It’s not devoid of the entire spectrum, the entire rainbow, all the colors that relationships come with. All those things are present to a spiritual person as well, but in a much more sublime form, in a much more lifegiving form. Those things happen.
It’s a very, very naive kind of misperception that the life of the spiritual person is just pristine white, you know, like a white sari or something, no colors, no blemishes, nothing. One experiences every single color that is available in the spectrum. In fact, the life of the common householder is probably about living in just two or three colors. The spiritual person actually lives in an unbelievable diversity of colors.
Q: The colors are much brighter too.
AP: The colors are much brighter, and several of those colors are abhorrent to the social person, you know. So, the social person really does not dare venture into those colors. And some of those colors are like divine gifts; they come only to those who really deserve them. Otherwise, it’s very easy to live your life within a very narrow spectrum and then just pass away. Sixty years, eighty years is not too long a time; you can easily just vile it away.