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How to help each other towards liberation? || (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
6 min
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Questioner: How can we help each other towards liberation?

Acharya Prashant: This question arises first of all because one perceives a difference, a separation, a dividing line between oneself and the other.

So, you are asking, “How can we help each other towards liberation?”

Liberation is liberation from this dividing line. Liberation is liberation from this divisive sense of the self. What else is there to be liberated from? One sees how fundamentally you and me and him and her, and those of the past and those yet to come, are all one. One sees that though we may appear different in myriad ways, yet our fundamental demand, our basic urge, our deepest love and our longing, are just one. And that is liberation. Now you know what is there to be junked; now you know what is good for you. And you also see that you and the other are not different, so obviously you know that what is good for you is also good for the other. Now you don’t have to work out how to help the other; now just your being is good for the other. Now you don’t have to devise ways or methods to be of use to the other; now one’s own liberation is the liberation of the entire mankind.

And one sees that one’s personal liberation is a myth; it’s either all together or nobody at all, because anyway the dividing line was false. When we say the ego does not exist, that the ego is a myth, that’s what it really means: the dividing line, the little boundary of the petty self—that is a myth. Because if I believe that my self-interest is different from your self-interest, then there is bound to be conflict, then there can be no alignment or harmony, and that’s a basic misconception. One thinks that one can develop or progress or be joyful at the cost of others. One feels as if it is a zero-sum game. One feels almost as if even liberation is competitive politics: only one would race to the throne and have the thing. It’s not that way.

It is a oneness that has to be liberated from the delusion of fragmentation. It is a oneness that has to be rescued from the dream of individual enlightenment. One of the great myths and one of the great disservices that spiritual literature of the past, or rather traditional spiritual folklore of the past has done, is that it has embedded in the mind the idea of individual liberation or fragmented enlightenment. One starts feeling as if it is possible that in a crowd of a hundred, one can cross over and be redeemed even as the other ninety-nine struggle.

It is from this misconception that all kinds of conflicts, all kinds of competitive violence in all areas of human activity emerge. One feels it is possible to be joyful even as the world around sobs. One defines one’s boundaries and says, “This is my world, my little personal universe, and I exist only within it.” That’s how the psyche operates, doesn’t it? “These are the boundaries of my personal universe, and I exist only within it, and let all the good things be found within it. It doesn’t matter much to me what is happening outside the boundaries of this personal universe.”

Now, what is liberation—betterment of this personal universe, or dissolution of the boundaries of this personal universe?

Unfortunately, a lot of times for a lot of people, even spiritual liberation means the betterment of this little personal universe. “How can I be more happy? How can I have better relationships? How do I start living a less tense life?” Do you see how all these questions pertain to beautifying and bettering the little thing we call as ‘me and my world’? Whereas, liberation is about seeing that this little world at the center of which the little sense of ‘I’ sits is itself the bondage. It is the prison, and there is no point in bettering and beautifying a prison. Liberation is about demolishing the walls; it is not about consecrating the prison.

It’s like walking. You can either say the left foot comes first, or you could say the right foot comes first, but what is certain is that both of them have to operate in tandem. You could either say, “I’ll help myself first, and that will enable me to help others, and when I am able to help others, I am able to help myself even more, and that enables me to help others more,” and so this movement (gesticulates walking with his fingers) ; or you could say, “No, we don’t begin with the right foot, but we begin with the left one. So, I start off with the intention of helping others, and because I need to be able to help others, so I develop my own abilities. And as I develop my own abilities, I am able to help others more, and when I help others more, I find that I need even more abilities to continue helping others, and as I become stronger and more able, I am able to help others all the more.”

Whichever way your inner logic proceeds, the fact is, movement will require both of these. You will have to help yourself, and you will have to help others, and you can’t help others if you don’t have the strength and ability and the eyes and the realization to be of help to someone. And if you think that you can just help yourself and let others remain as they are, then you will be left with the absurd situation of trying to move using only one leg, letting the power of the other leg remain totally unutilized. The right foot is trying to somehow hobble and move on its own, and the left foot is just being dragged along. I don’t think that would amount to a pretty picture or a harmonious kind of movement, or would it?

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