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How to bring real change in oneself?
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
31 min
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Question: Today, a lot of questions have come on this particular issue that we have been observing our life daily, our relationships, our relationship with work and the world outside, and we see a lot of agitation over there, disputes over there, discontent over there. So, Vishal Bamba is here with us who even recently attended one of the 2-day camps which were conducted last month. He has asked this question that reason or knowledge helps us to see that ugliness but our response towards that still comes from a center of dis-ease, so we start to fight the stupidities outside with our internal stupidities. Is that right? Also, is it possible to fight the battles outside without fighting the internal battles? Will that be of any help?

Acharya Prashant: First of all, the distinction between external and internal is merely a placeholder. It is a distinction useful to an extent but it is not a real distinction. In spirituality, we often talk of the external and the internal or the external vs the internal. The saints have spoken in that language. I too have used that terminology. It is useful to a point. Actually, the external and internal are one. What do you call external? The objects that you see, you call external.

You see a camera, that cupboard, that fan, that piece of furniture, that book and you say these are external things. What do you call internal? Yourself, the inner world, the subject. It is a matter of the first principle that the external and internal are one. The internal projects the external, the external conditions the internal. The object and the subject are two faces of the same coin. So, the external and internal actually don’t fight with each other. They complement each other. They are mirror images of each other which means that that which is going on within you, the internal stuff is very much related to that which you see outside of yourself. It is impossible to be someone and see something else. Being is seeing. So, it’s a closed system. And closed systems cannot just abruptly change from within.

I am an ant and my world is sweet particles, other food stuff, hiding places and such things. There will be nothing in the world of an ant to take it beyond anthood. All that the ant can perceive is its own particular world. All that the subject can ever perceive is an aggregation of objects strictly pertaining to the object. Therefore, the objects that you see are never going to disrupt your inner world. It is never going to happen. That’s the mark of the false subject. It only sees that which will helps it maintain, retain, continue, strengthen itself. Therefore, seeing is of no use at all. I am a lion. What do I see? I see deer, rabbit, zebra, bones, flesh, lioness. My world is a lion’s world. And the more I will look at the world, the more my lionhood will keep getting strengthened. No amount of observation therefore is going to help a lion. Observation will fail. And now you see why many of the questioners today are saying what they are. They are saying that we keep observing, it doesn’t help us. It won’t help because you only observe what you are. And therefore, that which you observe will not surprise you, shock you or introduce you to something new. Passing through a jungle, you drop your mobile phone there. The lion comes over the next day and sees the mobile phone lying there. What would it do with the mobile phone? Nothing. It will walk on, carry on as if it has seen nothing. Because the mobile phone does not belong to the lion’s world, so the lion won’t be able to see it at all. The lion might have physically seen that rectangular object lying there but mentally the electronic device has not registered in the lion’s psyche at all or has it? On the other hand, if you happen to drop a packet of flesh while passing through the jungle and the lion chances upon it. What would happen? The lion would notice it because the flesh belongs to lion’s world. You will see what you are. Being is seeing. Therefore, seeing is not going to help. Therefore, there are a million spiritual seekers who keep on practicing observation and find that their lives are not changing at all.

What will you observe? That what you are. Now you see you were residing in Noida till a few months back and life was moving on as usual. Was it not?

All of you were living in that place in the industrial area and were you particularly impelled to revolt on a daily basis? We won’t live here; we won’t live here. And daily you were seeing the conditions there or were you not seeing? You were. The air, the water, the noise. And life was normal. Now that you have shifted here and if you were again told to go back to that place, what would you do? Now, if somebody comes up with such advice, he would have a mutiny at hand. Why? Because now you have seen something new. Now observation will help. If you live within a cage and you keep observing the cage all day and nothing but the cage is being observed. That will not give you freedom from the cage. First of all, you require to see something beyond the cage, only then the cage will become unacceptable to you. Do you see this? Just observing your daily life will often be of very little help.

Unless you are simultaneously able to observe life beyond your regular regimen. Observing yourself or observing your circle of friends, you would not be motivated, impelled, moved to change at all because the lives that you are seeing around you are just similar to your own life. Why would you change? So, observation requires something more. Observation requires you to observe where you are and you also observe where the skies are. Two things must be observed, not just one. You have to look at your life and you also have to look at the life of the saint and then you will feel like revolting. You have to look at your place in Noida and you have to look at your place in Greater Noida. And then, you won’t want to go back. Otherwise, you can continue living in the same place for another decade. Are you getting it? Often it is after change that you realize how badly you needed the change.

It is strange. We think in linear terms. We feel that first of all comes the urge to change, the inner desire and impetus to change and then the desire is followed by the actual change. It doesn’t always happen that way. Such an argument would be given by the votaries of free will, by those who think that man knows what is best for himself. They will say you decide what is best for yourself and then you make that thing happen. This is a very childish way of thinking. This argument is given by those who think that voters know which candidate is best for them. Do they? This argument is given by those who say that consumers know which product is best for them. Do they? So, they say you make up your mind and then you decide. For them, the final action is preceded by the will towards that action and it’s a false philosophy. Actually, you require grace in matters of real change.

First of all, the change comes, and it often comes against your will. It is not that you will the change and then you get the change. The change comes first and it often comes either against your will or is indifferent to your will. And once the change has happened, then you realize how badly you needed that change. When the change is happening, you might not support it. You may even want to resist it with all your might. “Later on, later on.” You become thankful.

Observation of your own condition must be accompanied by exposure to something beyond yourself.

So, to observe, I have added one more condition. Now, I’ll add one more. Living as you are and where you are, even if you come to see that it is possible to live differently, you won’t be able to immediately change to a different situation because you have been living like yourself for a long time. You are habituated. So, you see something or somebody far higher than yourself. And instead of getting encouraged to reach what you see, you may even feel discouraged. You may say “Oh, I am certainly a creature of the mud and what I am seeing is high up in the skies. Will I ever reach it?" No. And that is what often happens. If you have been in certain conditions for a very long time, then don’t think that you would be automatically moved to go beyond that condition. Things happen in a different way. If you are living in a particular way for a very long time, that particular way becomes the truth for you. Because that’s the mark of truth, it doesn’t change.

Anything that has not changed for a long time gains the tendency to not change for an even longer time. Our boredom is very superficial. Actually, we are very very tolerant people. We don’t get bored with ourselves. We have been what we are for a very long time. Have we changed? Have we grown sick and bored with ourselves? No. People grow bored of objects, but do they ever become bored with themselves?

The longer you remain, the deeper is your tendency to remain further like that, like yourself.

So, we were saying that the observation of objects around you does not suffice. We said observation of something beyond your limited circle is needed. And now we are saying that even observation of something beyond your limited circle need not necessarily suffice. You may come up with the argument that this new thing that you are seeing is beyond you. Because what you are observing is a thing of the beyond and that becomes your alibi, your defense. You say it is beyond me. How dare I attempt and go for it. So, the third thing is also needed. I am making matters difficult for those who are fans of observation.

Those who keep saying just observe and things will happen. No, nothing happens just by observing. Love is needed. And you know what love gives you. Love gives you the patience to wait. Because there is a very vast distance between the earth and the sky. Even if a being of the earth comes to fall in love with the sky, the union won’t happen immediately, or would it. So, you require the depth of love that is prepared to wait till eternity. If you do not have that love and that patience, then you will give up and change won’t happen. You won’t reach the sky. And when you are just crawling on the earth then even if the sky appears lovely and alluring, it equally appears impossible to reach. Who are you? A crawler. You might have fallen in love with the sky but look at the difference, look at the distance. Your love then must have the great depth that will enable you to wait wait wait and this is not merely passive waiting. This is longing full of fire.

You’re not merely hoping for a miracle to happen. You’re so deeply in love. You are doing all you can to either fly up to the sky or bring the sky down. You’re doing all that you can. Obviously, all that you can do is not going to suffice because of who are you. Ah! you are a little crawler, a little thing of the burrows and the basement. But still, you must beat the earth with your feet. You must hit the stones with your fists. You must do all that you can. That is your love song. That is your outreach. That’s your invitation to the sky. So, when does change happen?

Change happens when you look at your dark burrows, at your stinking caves, at the mud in which you have been wallowing for so long. And then you look up at the sky.

You are observing yourself and you are observing the sky. And as you look towards the sky, your eyes well up and you want the flow of time to stop that very moment. You want to bypass time. You want to immediately reach then and there to that point when you would belong to the sky. And then change happens. Then change happens. Merely observing your life will not beget you any real change. Love is needed. Knowledge of this and that is highly insufficient.

Love is the fire that melts down the bondage that is you. Knowledge is merely the light in which you can see your bondages. Even if you are able to look at your chains in the light of knowledge, that does not rid you of the chains, or does it. In fact, if you have been wearing chains since your inception, then observation of chains hardly surprises you, or does it?

Knowledge is just the beginning. Knowledge is like a school curriculum for boys in school uniforms. Love is for real men. They have dressed up in battle gear, not school uniforms. Or they are not dressed up at all. You begin with the knowledge it’s okay. Primary, secondary, higher secondary. But liberation is not a boyish matter. Liberation is for men who can love. Boys and girls can giggle and wink. It is men and women who know love and liberation. Observation is a teeny-weeny beginning. It’s a teenage thing actually. You look at the teenagers, they are observing all the time. So, practicing observation is the teenage of spirituality. You have yet not grown up. You are observing this or that. Somebody is observing his breath all his life. This is childish stuff. Not bad. Not wrong. Merely childish. So, please communicate this to your group. I hope they are anyway watching me right now.

Detached passive observation will carry you only so far. Even when you are practicing detachment, isn’t there somebody who very solidly and stubbornly exists as a detached entity? You say I am detached from everything. Who is detached from everything? I am. This “I am” remains. Childish fear. I can drop everything except this “I”. I am detached. It won’t help. The real thing that needed to be dropped is still there. I am detached. Love is when this “I” simply melts. Goes away somewhere. Nobody knows where. You observe from your own center. You observe as the observer. And therefore, you fail. The caged bird needs love for the sky. Merely ogling at the spikes of its cage is not going to help it. Don’t you see how theoretical and academic the observation is? What do you think? People don’t know what their situation is? They know what their situation is but they have no discontent against their situation and that discontent can come only from love.

Only when you have seen something bigger and better than yourself, then you would not want to anymore remain who you are. Otherwise, you may know everything about yourself and yet coolly comfortably continue to remain who you are. Is that not what most people do? Is it hidden from you how you are and who you are, how you live, and how you behave and how you spend your time? Is it a very intricate, sophisticated matter? Is it? It is common sense, it is a common observation, we all know that.

You don’t need to be an expert observer to know these things. Everybody knows the rut he is in but we have accepted that rut because we know of nothing else. You must not only know of something else, but you must also fall in love with that something else. And now you would know why Kabir Sahab repeatedly and incessantly emphasizes the virtue of the right company - Sat Sangat. He says nothing changes you better and faster than the right company. At one point, he says that the company of the Sadhu is so sweet that even if Ram calls me, I don’t want to go. Obviously, it’s an emphatic and ebullient overstatement but you see what he is pointing at. He is highlighting the importance of sitting with the Sadhu. Just sit with him and if you have spent a few hours with him then you will be no more able to tolerate your usual domestic non-sense. Just knowing that your house is noisy is not enough. You must also have had an introduction to silence.

Q: Would you take that to the finality?

Acharya: Obviously obviously obviously, nothing beyond this exists. Man is a very adaptable, a very malleable creature. That’s what the word conditioning implies. Man gets conditioned to the conditions. Man is like water. Put the water in a tray, it becomes the tray. Freeze the water, it becomes the stone. Heat the water, it disappears. Man is very very adaptable and that is man’s curse. Man has no integrity within, nothing solid, nothing permanent, nothing unchangeable within. Everything changes. The conditions change and everything changes and therefore man will not revolt against conditions. Does the water ever revolt against its container? Similarly, man is unlikely to revolt against his conditions. You require something beyond the observation of his conditions. You require the miracle that is called Sat Sangati. If you travel across the world, you’ll be amazed at the different ways in which people live especially if you can meet the natives, the indigenous people in the Americas or Africa or Australia. You’d be surprised. They have a particular way of living and that is all for them. This is my life, and this is my world and that’s all. Is there something outside it? I don’t think so. Not only do I not know whether there is something outside of my world, but I also do not want to know. Do you know what the Sentinelese people did to the American wanderer? Why was he attacked? Not only do we not know what is happening in the world, but we also do not want to know. Do not come near us. We will attack you. This thing about the natural curiosity of a child is a fool’s concept.

Man is not curious at all. Had those tribal people been curious, they would have welcomed an outsider on the island. They would have said where do you come from, what’s the news, what’s the world outside like? Obviously, had he tried to convert them or evangelize or tried something mischievous or nasty, they would have well within their rights to oppose him. I am not talking right now about the motives of this intruder. Right now, just looking at the event from the perspective of the inhabitants of the island, somebody new has come over and I do not really know who that new person is. I do not know whether he has good motives or bad motives or this or that but of one thing I am pretty certain. If somebody comes over to my place, I do not want him. We do not wear clothes and we are not at all interested in knowing what this fellow is wearing over his waist or his shoulders. Why he is covering his body? Is this cover of any use? And he’s carrying some stuff. There’s no curiosity to know what that stuff is. So please get rid of this notion that a man is naturally curious or a child is naturally curious.

We are not curious. We are curious about flimsy stuff. We are curious about trivial things, but we are not curious when it comes to stuff that is likely to change us because curiosity and self-preservation do not go together. We just do not want to know. We want to know trivial things. What is happening here there, this kind of little gossip we might be very interested in. But do we really want to know if the knowledge proves harmful to our core beliefs and our core way of living? Do we still want to know? No, then we do not want to know.

Yesterday you asked me what is it that remains unchanged. While it is true obviously axiomatically that the truth remains unchanged, you must also know that man’s deepest tendency also remains unchanged. The “I” tendency does not change. The “I” tendency is all about self-preservation. Let me please continue to be. I am very afraid. That’s the “I” tendency. You require the company of the beyond and it would hardly ever happen in a planned way. It would hardly ever happen in a way intimated to you in advance. Even when God wants to give you company, he cannot serve you with advanced notice. You will run away. So, he has to come to you in ways that will necessarily be surprising to you, necessarily be unexpected and shocking. It is a kind of stealth; it is a kind of deception. But this deception is needed otherwise you would block the entry, you would block the company. Later on, when the fruits of god’s company start appearing and you find that the fruits are sweet, then you become thankful for the way God touched you. That is absolutely important. And then change happens.

Now, where do we stand you see? I said most of us are anyway conversant with our current condition, so I am really really downplaying the importance of observation. Why do you need to observe when you anyway know what is going on? Many times, when people ask me, "Acharya Ji, What’s wrong with me. I spontaneously find myself responding with Don’t you know?” Or somebody would ask me What do I do and all that I can utter is “Do I need to tell? Don’t you know?” Do you need further observation? What for? To keep wasting time. To keep matters as they are. To keep providing yourself with the excuse that you are busy doing something meaningful for your liberation.

When all that you are actually doing is delaying your liberation. This observation thing becomes a very very convenient way to delay your liberation. You say I am observing. For how long will you keep observing? You’re standing on the railway track and the train is speeding towards you at 150 miles an hour. Even kids and cows and madmen have the sense to jump away from the track. But you are a spiritual observer. You have been to some Ashram and learned the great practice of observation, that too detached and dispassionate observation.

Somebody said I practice passive observation. Now obviously in your passive observation, there is no scope for any activity. Passivity and activity do not go together. Now you are passively observing the train coming upon yourself. Wonderful! Keep observing. The passive observation excuse is a very dangerous one. Avoid it. Enough of observation. You have observed enough already. Now reach out to the stars and beg for their company. For how long will you keep observing the waste and the refuse? Reach out. Somebody unimaginable. Let the unthinkable happen to you. Be drawn towards a wildflower and fall in love with it. You know how lame knowledge is. Somebody just came over. Does he not know that there’s a session happening here? We are talking of knowledge. Does he not know? Was this disturbance not entirely avoidable? But when you have no love, when you are absolutely barren, of what use will be knowledge? You know what is going on here and yet you bring the motorcycle almost up to my throat. Lovelessness. Does he need to observe that something is going on here? No more observation is needed. An observation you have had enough of. Having not had a bath for 10 days, you do not need to observe whether you are dirty. You know that you are dirty, don’t you? You don’t need to confirm whether you are stinking. You know that you stink. You need a bath. Not observation. Or if you continue looking at your muddied face for 10 more hours, will that clean it up? Especially if the observation is dispassionate and detached and passive to boot. You require work, you require solid effort, you require to move your ass. You don’t need to just sit somewhere meditating. Get up from your mediation mat. Move that fat ass.

Q: So, whenever even we come across the right company, we try to attack that right company too in some sense or the other. That even reminded me of the crucifixion of Jesus that happened because even if someone is there to help you but you are hellbent upon clutching to your own boundaries and hellbent upon this that you do not really want to get helped out, to come out of your own boundaries. So, you stop the other person in a thousand ways. So, how to be in the right company?

Acharya: Right company beckons everybody. You must have a pre-existing repulsion against your current state and also preferably a little pre-disposition towards the beyond. Only then will you accept the right company that is anyway always available. Change beckons. Change shows itself up as a possibility but who will admit and accept the possibility of change? Only the one who has a grudge against her current condition. If you are somebody who is very well settled where she is, then you will not only not accept the change, you might even violently attack the instrument of change. And now you will see why when the agent of change shows up, calls, invites, teaches, tempts, or seduces, not everybody goes towards him. Only the chosen few go towards him. Who chooses these chosen few? They themselves choose themselves. How did they choose themselves? They chose themselves by not choosing their current condition.

Q: What is grace?

Acharya: To not to be happy with your current condition. Grace is the dissatisfaction that enables you to accept grace. Only by grace will you feel dissatisfied with who you are and where you are. And when you talk of grace, you must also remember that grace and insistence of ego on free will go together.

Grace is always there but at the same time, the insistence of ego on free will is also always there. So, grace is there but whether or not using its so-called free will, ego chooses grace is always an iffy matter. It is always doubtful. So, grace is there always and the power to chose grace or not is also always there with the ego which means that definitely grace is not always going to be chosen. Even grace cannot make you compulsorily choose grace. That is the limitation of grace. Even when grace shines upon you, you still retain your self-projected sovereignty. You may choose grace, or you may reject it. Your sovereignty will not be taken away even by grace. So, then you pray to grace as devotees do. “Please please, act on my behalf. Please don’t let me choose because if I will choose then I will choose wrongly. Please take away my power to choose”. That’s what the devotee asks for. He says “Do not allow me to choose. That’s the only thing I can ask from you. Take away my sovereignty. My free will is my biggest curse. Take it away”. That’s what he prays for. “Make me your servant.” “Meera ko Prabhu daasi banao.” That’s what she’s praying for. Because as long as I continue to have even a little bit of choice, I will make only the wrong choice. So, I am making one final choice and giving up all choices. And what is my final choice? To choose the final one. That’s what the devotee does. He makes one final choice and says “Please take this away. This is too much for me to handle. Only you know how to choose, so the power to choose must vest in you”.

Q: Acharya Ji, there are a lot of people in the world as we talked of that when one is dissatisfied with oneself that’s when it happens. So, there are a lot of people who are dissatisfied with themselves, and then they run behind success. Then they try to motivate themselves, but they never go in search of the right company or maybe they are not aware of it. Why does that happen?

Acharya: Usually, people who are dissatisfied with where they are, are not at all dissatisfied with who they really are. So, what would they do? They would choose the next place to be at. They are dissatisfied with the place but not with their capacity to choose. So, if you are dissatisfied with black, you run towards white. And you consider getting white as a success. Are you getting it?

Dissatisfied people have their own little universe within which objects of satisfaction and dissatisfaction keep floating and alternating. What does not change is their belief in their capacity to choose rightly for themselves. Even when a fellow says “I have been a total failure”, just see what he means. He means to say that he knows very well what success is and therefore he knows that he is a failure. He’s still not admitting that he does not know what success is and what failure is. Somebody exclaims proudly “I am a success” and somebody weeps in dejection “I am a failure”.

There is something both of them have in common. What is it? Their confidence that they know what failure is and what success is. On this front, both are one. They both say that we know what success is and what failure is. It's just that one is on one side of the line and the other is on another side of the line, but both are very very, and equally confident about the line. About the line, they are very sure. They are not giving that confidence up. They are very satisfied with their confidence. It's just that they are not satisfied with getting what they want but they are surely very confident that they know what to want. You’ll have people crying because they did not get what they wanted but have you ever met anyone who is crying that he does not know what to want. No, of that we are very sure. So, the division is there are people who want and seem to get what they want and there are people who want and seem to not get what they want. But the other division is hardly visible. The other division is between people who are confident about what they must want and people who admit that they do not know what is worth wanting.

Nobody with humility and clarity comes forward and says “I just do not know what to want.” And when you can say “I do not know what to want,” then you can outsource the whole wanting business to Kabir’s Ram. Then you tell him the boat is yours, the sail is yours, the engine is yours, the boatman is yours. You decide what must happen. Who am I to make decisions?

Q: So, Acharya Ji, can we say that this dissatisfaction and satisfaction that one feels in one’s life is basically nothing but one’s dictates that have already been given.

Acharya: Obviously, it is according to your conditioning that you experience satisfaction and dissatisfaction. He is happy he is wearing yellow. She is crying she is wearing black. But who told both of them that yellow is great? Neither of them. So, they both are actually slaves to some third one who dictated to both of them that yellow is good and black is bad. Ostensibly, he is the winner wearing yellow and she’s the loser wearing black but actually, both of them are just slaves.

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